Rich Tortorelli, Assistant Athletic Director for Communications
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Oklahoma City University edged Providence (Mont.) 25-23, 25-23, 22-25, 21-25, 15-13 on Tuesday in the NAIA women’s volleyball championships presented by Marriott South Sioux City Riverfront at the Tyson Events Center.
Marijana Bjelobrk took over as OCU’s all-time kills leader. The 16th-ranked Stars (34-1) meet Morningside (Iowa) at 4 p.m. Wednesday.
Bjelobrk, a senior from Belgrade, Serbia, posted 12 kills and 14 digs for her fifth double-double of the season. Bjelobrk brought her career total to 1,442 kills, surpassing the 1,431 Xiaoting Ma piled up from 2008-10. Bjelobrk tied the record with a kill to put OCU ahead 21-20 in the first set, then nailed another to give the Stars set point at 24-23.
The Stars overcame 4-0, 6-1 and 12-9 deficits in the fifth set to prevail for the 33rd consecutive time. Oklahoma City fended off 17th-ranked Providence to move to 2-0 against ranked teams this year. Bjelobrk crushed a kill to provide OCU match point at 14-13.
“Providence was a great team,” OCU coach Kristen Coventon said. “We knew going into it that it would be a very tough game. I thought our middle blockers did a very good job today – probably the best game both of them have played this year.
“We’ve faced some adversity throughout this season, so it was great to see us use that and fight back in the fifth set. I’m proud of how hard we fought. Masha breaking the OCU kill record was the icing on top. Now we have to gear up to play another solid team in Morningside.”
Oklahoma City tallied five unanswered points to move ahead 13-12 in the fifth set. Lacy Beeler nailed a kill, then combined with Kenady Bertling on a block. Bjelobrk smashed a kill to tie the set 12-12.
Beeler, a junior from Jenks, Okla., accumulated 20 kills, 13 digs and two blocks. Beeler provided OCU with her second consecutive 20-kill outing, fifth 20-kill performance and 16th double-double of 2019.
Sophia Salak rang up career-high 60 assists to go with six digs and two blocks. Salak, a sophomore from McKinney, Texas, turned in the eighth all-time 60-assist performance for the Stars and the first since Sanja Vojnovic dished out 60 against William Woods (Mo.) on Aug. 27, 2016.
Catelyn Vargas, a redshirt freshman from Lubbock, Texas, supplied OCU with 13 kills and four blocks, while Isabel Harwell, a sophomore from Edmond, Okla., tracked down 20 digs. Caitlin Briggs, a junior from Mustang, Okla., scooped up 19 digs.
OCU won for the first time in the NAIA Championships since a 25-17, 25-11, 25-17 win over Mobile (Ala.) on Nov. 30, 2016 in Sioux City, Iowa.