College Volleyball: Eagles heading to nationals for 1st time in program history
Cal-Pac champs await NAIA National Tournament selection show set for 9 a.m. Monday
Updated as of Monday, November 13, 2017 6:55 AM
With four of the five games separated by three points or less, Embry-Riddle and UC-Merced’s marathon Cal-Pac title match went well into Saturday night.
On the line? A conference title and bid to the NAIA Volleyball National Championships in Sioux City, Iowa, next weekend.
And after getting so close in the past two seasons but not reaching their goal, this year, the Eagles wouldn’t be denied.
Lyndsey Weiler recorded 22 kills, Megan Riley had 31 digs and Audrey Baldwin chipped in with a career-high 61 assists for the Embry-Riddle volleyball team in a 3-2 win over UC-Merced to claim the Cal-Pac title and punch their ticket to nationals.
“It was a relief,” Embry-Riddle head coach Jill Blasczyk said. “But it definitely wasn’t given. We had to struggle with quite a bit.”
It is the first national tournament appearance in program history for the Eagles (28-3, 14-0 Cal-Pac), which have won 19 straight matches, their last loss coming over two months ago.
After taking game one Saturday night in Riverside, California, 25-22, Embry-Riddle fell two games behind when UC-Merced (10-15, 9-5 Cal-Pac) rallied for 26-24 and 25-22 wins to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
But Embry-Riddle would recover, earning a 25-19 win in game four and outlasting the Bobcats 17-15 in game five to claim the title.
"I believe our past experiences were the difference maker in the fifth set,” Blasczyk said, adding the Eagles trailed 14-13 in game five but UC-Merced failed on match point after a service error into the net.
The Eagles collectively hit .195 with 25 attack errors, but had 114 total digs defensively.
Cal-Pac Player of the Year Jalin Yoder had 19 kills and 21 digs, while Caylee Robalin had 16 kills, 12 digs and four assists.
Embry-Riddle awaits the NAIA selection show to find out where they’ll be seeded, which can be viewed live 9 a.m. Monday online at naia.org.
If the Eagles are awarded a Top 20 seed, they’ll receive a first-round bye and have two weeks to prepare for the three-day nationals event Tuesday through Thursday, Nov. 28 to Nov. 30, in Iowa.
If Embry-Riddle receives a seed falling in No. 21 through No. 44 range, they’ll play in the first round of the tournament, which is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 18.
These matches are designated “on campus” sites by the NAIA, meaning if the Eagles receive a seed No. 21 to No. 32, they’ll likely host a national tournament match in Prescott.
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is sports editor for The Daily Courier, the Prescott Valley Tribune and the Chino Valley Review. Follow him on Twitter at @SportsWriter52 or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Email email@example.com or call (928) 445-3333, ext. 1106.