McMurry University toppled Southern Nazarene University by scores of 25-23, 17-25, 25-21, 22-25 and 16-14 to capture the 2013 National Christian College Athletic Association Central Regional Volleyball Championship Saturday evening at the Sawyer Center.
The win guarantees the War Hawks the opportunity to defend their 2012 NCCAA national championship.
"It was a great match and a hard fought battle by both teams, but I am so proud of my girls for their relentless pursuit of this win tonight," McM head coach Cammie Petree said. "They were determined to defend their regional championship and were not going to settle for anything but taking the banner home. Our seniors really stepped up and everyone followed their lead -- it was a great team effort."
Trailing 12-10 in the fifth set, it was a pair of sophomores that put the War Hawks in position to clinch the match. Back-to-back kills from Catherine Heath (Liberty Hill, Texas/Liberty Hill HS) and a SNU attack error gave McM a 13-12 lead. The Crimson Storm (25-10) fought back behind consecutive kills from Emily Dick, which tied the match at 14-all.
Kelsey Harkins (Elgin, Texas/Elgin HS) responded with a kill and moments later, Harkins and Heath assisted on the match-winning block.
Peyton Evans (Riverton, Utah/Western Texas College) had a standout performance. The senior captain finished with a team-high 15 kills, 20 assists and 14 digs for the triple-double.
"What a hard fought win," Evans said. "We knew there was a chance we could quality for an at-large berth (at the NCCAA national tournament), but we didn't want that. Our goal was to earn the regional championship and put another banner in our gym."
Sophomore libero Ayssa Garcia (San Antonio, Texas/Johnson HS) shared a similar outlook.
"We lost to them (Southern Nazarene) in the first day of the tournament and we wanted another chance to play them," said Garcia, who finished with a match-high 29 digs. "What you saw was two great squads compete."
Senior Kasi Conners (Abilene, Texas/Abilene HS) and sophomore Taylor Seaton (Big Spring, Texas/Big Spring HS) were a troublemaking duo at the net.
Conners added nine kills and five blocks, while Seaton finished with six kills and five blocks.
"It feels pretty good to earn this win," Conners said. "Now we can return to Florida and defend our national championship. We are all pretty excited and I'm lucky to share this experience with a great group."
In the morning session McMurry (17-16) swept Oklahoma Wesleyan University (22-10) by scores of 25-14, 25-18 and 25-12.
Conners finished with a team-high seven kills and Evans chipped in six kills.
The 2013 National Christian College Athletic Association Volleyball Division I National Championship runs Dec. 5-7 at the Kissimmee Civic Center in Kissimmee, Fla.
Information provided by McMurry athletics department.