ORU Turned Back in Summit League Title Match, 3-0
The Summit title is the second in a row for the Bison and their third in the last four seasons. For ORU, the title match loss is their fifth in program history; the Golden Eagles also captured seven Summit League crowns in their 14 years in the conference. ORU will depart for the Southland Conference in 2012.
Megan Lambertson led the Bison (26-8) with 12 kills, while Chrissy Knuth chipped in 11 kills and 16 digs. Andrea Henning had a team-high 22 digs for NDSU, while Tournament MVP Jennifer Lopez had 34 set assists and ten digs.
Joana Gruber led the Golden Eagles (20-10) while 12 kills, and she notched the double-double with 12 digs. Summit League Defensive Player of the Year Bruna Silva tallied a team-best 16 digs.
Gruber and Silva joined Lambertson and Knuth on the All-Tournament Team, along with Oakland’s Meghan Bray and IPFW’s Tessa McGill.
The Bison used a 4-0 run to take a 6-4 lead in the first set, with Lambertson serving as the catalyst and swatting two kills. An NDSU service error gave ORU hope, at 18-16, but the Bison scored seven of the set’s last eight points, punctuated by a Knuth kill, to take a 25-17 win.
The second set was extremely tight, with neither team leading by more than three points. The Golden Eagles took a 19-18 lead on a Laura Taylor kill, but NDSU rallied to tie the set on a Knuth blast and take a 20-19 lead on an ORU error. Later two kills in a row from Brynn Joki and Lambertson gave NDSU a 22-20 lead. Later Knuth served the set out, tallying an ace on the final point to give NDSU a 25-21 win.
A 6-0 North Dakota State run with Andrea Henning serving stretched an early Bison lead to 11-4, seemingly setting the stage for an easy top seed victory. But the Golden Eagles weren’t done yet, as kills by Gruber and Tatum Fredeen forced an NDSU timeout at 11-9.
But the Bison righted the ship after the stoppage of play, going on a 3-0 run and getting a block from Knuth and Janna Deyle to take a 17-11 lead.
That’s when Olivia Ophus stepped in for the Golden Eagles, serving the team right back into the set. The junior smoked two aces as part of a 5-0 run to tie it up at 18-18. Later Ophus added a kill that tied it again, at 23-23.
But NDSU rallied for the final two points to capture the conference crown. Knuth gave the top seed the lead at 24-23 with a kill, and she assisted on a block as match point that clinched the title with a 25-23 NDSU win.
ORU’s 20-win season was their first since 2008 and their fifth under Head Coach Sheera Sirola.
In addition to Silva’s Defensive Player of the Year honor, junior Elizabeth McVicker was honored as a 2nd Team All-Summit League selection in what proved to be a highly successful season for ORU. The Golden Eagles won 12 straight matches at one point, their longest winning streak since 2006.
Silva finished the season with 673 digs, the third-highest single season total in ORU history.
North Dakota State will await word on their seeding in the 2011 NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship, which begins next week.