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ORU Heads to Summit Title Match with 3-2 Win

Courtesy: ORU Media Relations
          Release: 11/18/2011
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Sheina Fernandes served ORU to a spot in the Summit League title match on Friday night
FORT WAYNE, Ind. - Oral Roberts University rallied from a 2-1 hole and clinched a spot in Saturday’s Summit League Championship final match with a 3-2 (18-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-22, 15-8) victory over IPFW, Friday night at the Gates Sports Center. The Golden Eagles (20-9) ended the match on a 6-0 run after finishing the fourth set on a 7-1 spurt.

With the win, third-seeded Oral Roberts advances to face top-seed North Dakota State tomorrow at 6 pm CT with an NCAA Tournament spot on the line. The Bison scored a four-set victory over Oakland in Friday’s other semifinal match.

Tatum Fredeen led ORU to victory, with 18 kills, and Joana Gruber contributed strong fourth and fifth sets in a 12-kill effort. Summit League Defensive Player of the Year Bruna Silva had a team-high 16 digs.

Summit Freshman of the Year Emily Spencer led the Mastodons (21-9) with 12 kills, while libero Tessa McGill tallied 13 digs.

ORU hit .182 as a team, while IPFW hit at a .142 clip. Laura Taylor led the Golden Eagles with 41 assists, while Megan Steenhuysen led the Mastodons with 40.

ORU raced out to a 3-1 lead in the opening set, but the momentum was short-lived. A 5-0 IPFW run, including kills by Spencer and Alli Hook, gave the Mastodons a 6-3 lead, and they never looked back. A McGill service ace pushed the lead to 19-11, and a hook kill gave IPFW a 25-18 win.

The Golden Eagles rallied to tie the game with a second set victory. Down 16-15, ORU got a service ace from Silva and a Gruber kill as part of a tide-turning 4-0 run. With the lead in hand, back-to-back kills by Fredeen and Jessica Pancratz capped the game with ORU on top, 25-21.

The Mastodons raced out to a quick 5-1 lead in the third set on kills from Spencer and Haley Emenhiser. Later IPFW used a 4-0 run, including another Spencer blast, to take a 15-5 lead and put the game away. ORU could not muster a rally, and the set ended at 25-22 on a kill from Kendall Wienkes.

Oral Roberts dominated the opening stages of the fourth set, taking a 14-7 lead thanks in large part to three kills from Fredeen. But the home team got to work, staging an eight-point spurt to tie the set at 17-17. The run continued, as a service ace from Jen Milligan pushed the lead to 21-18.

With elimination looming and their season on the line, the Golden Eagles summoned the same fire that burned during their earlier 12-match winning streak. Sheera Sirola’s team finished the set on a 7-1 run, including three kills by Gruber and two by Elizabeth McVicker, to force a fifth set with a 25-22 win.

The tiebreaker was neck-and-neck in the early going, until three straight IPFW attack errors gave the Golden Eagles a 6-3 lead. A timeout got the Mastodons back on track, though, as they used four straight ORU errors to tie the set at 7-7.

Gruber helped swing the match back in ORU’s favor, smacking a kill to start a two-point run that gave the Golden Eagles a 9-7 lead and forced another Mastodon timeout.

The lead would hold up, as Sheina Fernandes served the Golden Eagles to victory. The junior swatted two aces as part of a match-ending 6-0 run, giving Oral Roberts a 15-8 win.

ORU has now advanced to the title match in all 12 of their Summit League (formerly Mid-Continent Conference) Championship appearances. The Golden Eagles have won seven Summit League crowns, most recently in 2006.

North Dakota State topped the Golden Eagles in Oral Roberts’ last championship appearance, a 3-1 (20-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-17) victory in 2008. The Bison won a five-set title match (20-25, 25-18, 22-25, 27-25, 15-10) over IPFW to win the 2010 Summit League title.

Saturday’s championship match begins at 6 pm CT in Fort Wayne. Live video coverage is available for a small fee at the Summit’s official website, www.TheSummitLeague.org.
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