Eagles 3-peat as Cal Pac champions
PRESCOTT — The Embry-Riddle Eagles (26-5, 16-0 Cal Pac) Took on the UC Merced Bobcats (16-11, 12-4 Cal Pac) in the California Pacific Conference Championships for a berth in the NAIA national championships.
The two teams started even, trading points until the Bobcats sparked a brief run. Cal Pac Player of the year Erin Clark and Caylee Robalin got a pair of kills and an ace to tie the game up at 15. Despite a controversial net violation gave the Bobcats a late lead, middle blocker Sharik Joseph unleashed a brutal kill that gave Riddle the push to win the set 25-22.
The Eagles kept the momentum going early into the second set, with Joseph recording a pair of kills and a block to give the Eagles the early lead. The bobcats battled back, and Riddle was forced to call a timeout down 11-14. The Eagles hit hard after the break, but Merced tied it up at 20 before a string of kills from the trio of Clark, Joseph, and Robalin secured the 25-23 victory.
Merced came out desperate, and took an early lead, but Embry-Riddle chipped away at the lead until a vicious kill from Erin Clark swung the momentum for the Eagles. The team built and kept a moderate lead until Julia Kjenstad scored the final kill.
Embry-Riddles three set victory marks their third consecutive conference championship and 42nd consecutive victory over conference opponents. The victory also secured them a spot in the NAIA National tournament.
The win obviously meant a lot for the team. Senior setter Audrey Baldwin reflected on winning it her senior year saying, “It means a lot to go out with a bang. I really appreciate the way the team handled everything, and I think ultimately it came down to us playing as a better team. This game showed how we handled being pushed, we had to trust the process and really fight sometimes. This game really got us ready for the national tournament”
The National stage seemed on everybody’s mind after this victory, with Cal Pac Coach of the Year Jill Blasczyk commenting, “Right now we’re playing some of our best volleyball, we’ve earned the opportunity to play again. I couldn’t be happier for this group of girls.”
The Eagles will be playing Nov. 23 against an undetermined team and location for the opening round of the national tournament. Opponent and location will be announced Monday.
Jake Whitaker is a stringer for The Daily Courier. Follow him on twitter @jakewhit8424. To reach him, send an email to email@example.com.