Tim Shay, Sports Information Director
CONWAY, Ark. – The Mid-America Christian University volleyball team got their 2017 season underway on Saturday afternoon, heading to Central Baptist College for a tri-match against the Mustangs and the Southwestern College (Kan.) Moundbuilders. The Lady Evangels (0-2) were competitive all afternoon, however they dropped the first match to Central Baptist (3-0) in straight sets before losing a five-set battle with Southwestern (1-2).
In the season opener, MACU took on the host Mustangs, and the match was a unique one from the start. After CBC took three of the first four points, Ryann Hale led the Lady Evangels on a 4-0 run to help MACU take a 5-3 lead. The set remained close until a 9-0 run helped CBC open a 17-7 lead, but the Lady Evangels bounced back. Melissa Hoppal served MACU on a 7-0 spurt that featured her first service ace of the season, and the first kill of Erika Brown’s volleyball career. With MACU trailing 21-16 late in the first set, Hale led another 5-0 run for the Lady Evangels, as MACU battled back to tie the score at 21. The Mustangs, however, closed out the set by taking four of the final five points, taking the set 25-22.
CBC opened a 6-3 lead early in set two, but MACU managed to whittle away at the deficit, and the Lady Evangels tied the set at 10-10 and 14-14. MACU took a brief lead of 16-15, but from that point to the end of the set, MACU only scored consecutive points once, and the Mustangs took the second set 25-22 to move to within one set of winning the match.
Back-to-back kills from Da’Jah Thompson in the third set gave MACU the 12-11 lead midway through the frame, but long runs against the Lady Evangels continued to be an issue. Runs of 5-0 and 6-0 for the Mustangs helped them put the match away with a 25-21 third set victory.
Thompson led the Lady Evangels with eight kills in the match, Hoppal added six, and three MACU players – Brown, Dianne Walter, and Mary Seifert – added five apiece. Hoppal added eight assists, and Gabrielle Poling notched six digs to lead the Lady Evangels defensive effort tin the back row. MACU hit .400 for the match, led by Thompson (8 K-1 E-9 Att) who hit a blistering .778 in her first collegiate volleyball match.
MACU opened the first set of the day’s second match with a 4-0 run, and they continued to build on that lead, eventually stretching their margin to 17-12. With MACU leading 19-16 late in the frame, Hoppal stepped back and served out the set, including notching an ace on set point as the Lady Evangels grabbed the win 25-16.
In the second set, MACU built a small lead early, but with the Lady Evangels leading 9-7, the momentum shifted. Southwestern scored three straight points to take a 10-8 lead, and for the rest of the set, MACU was unable to score consecutive points, and the Moundbuilders took the set 25-19. MACU struggled mightily on the attack in the third set, committing 12 errors and notching only nine kills in the third stanza, as Southwestern took the set 25-21 to move to the brink of claiming the victory.
In the fourth set, MACU flipped the script from the third frame, hitting the ball at a blistering .435 clip. Hoppal, Thompson, and Walter each had three kills in the set; Thompson and Walter each had a service ace; and Hoppal dished out five of the Lady Evangels’ nine helpers in the frame. Unfortunately for MACU, the fifth set did not go as well, though MACU did still attack the ball at a pace of .429 in the stanza.
Thompson had 13 kills, and Jasmine Pickett had a dozen kills and hit .500 for the match. Hoppal handed out 21 helpers, and Poling again led the way in digs, this time with 13. MACU hit .279 for the match as a team, but for the second straight match, the Lady Evangels struggled in serve receive, allowing 13 aces in the match to bring their total of aces allowed to 30 for the day.
MACU will return home and have Sunday off before beginning a southward swing into the Lone Star State on Monday and Tuesday. The Lady Evangels will battle the Bulldogs of Jarvis Christian College (0-8) on Monday at 7 p.m., and they will conclude the trip with a date with Wiley College (1-3) on Tuesday at 6 p.m.