Lexington, Ky. – The No. 20 Transylvania volleyball team accomplished a monumental program milestone on Sunday afternoon at the Beck Center, sweeping the Earlham College Quakers in three sets of the 2019 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Volleyball Tournament Championship match.
The Pioneers powered past Earlham 25-11, 25-22, 25-14 to win their first HCAC Tournament championship in the 18-year history of the program, achieving their first automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in the process.
After finishing as the runner-up of the HCAC Tournament title match three times previously including last season at home as the number-one seed, the Pioneers completed their championship summit in rapid and dominant fashion on Sunday, scoring the first 10 points of the day in set one, holding off a feisty Quakers squad in set two, and winning soundly in the final set to finish off the best regular season in program history at 27-4 while winning all 11 matches against HCAC opponents in 2019. Earlham completed its season at 20-9 overall and 6-3 in conference play.
Hannah Talkers led the Pioneers with a match-high 37 assists and 17 digs, along with six kills and one block as the senior was named the HCAC Tournament Most Valuable Player. Her fellow senior teammate Jordan Horne finished a terrific weekend with a match-high 17 kills, six digs, and two blocks and was named to the All-Tournament Team along with Talkers.
Playing in front of an electric crowd, the Pioneers gave the home faithful plenty to savor early on as Horne and Ellie Stigger began the afternoon with back-to-back kills. Sylvie Miller delivered two aces in a 10-0 outburst before the Quakers registered their first point of the day. The Pioneers scored four more times in a row as Stigger registered back-to-back kills as part of a 15-kill performance. Horne finished off a five-kill opening set with consecutive kills to win the set for Transy.
Earlham shook off its slow start by battling all the way with the Pioneers in the second set. The set witnessed 11 early ties before the Quakers stretched their lead to 16-13. Following a timeout, the Pioneers regrouped behind key defensive stops and more kills from Horne. Transylvania went ahead for good at 22-21 on a Horne kill while Stigger later terminated the set with another kill.
Nursing a 6-5 advantage in the third set, the Pioneers went on another heartstopping run with five straight points to take full control of the contest. Horne continued her right-side attacks down the stretch to put the set and match out of reach. Stigger put the Pioneers in position for match point with back-to-back hard hits and stamped the ticket into the NCAA Tournament for the Pioneers with a match-sealing block for the 25th point.
Stigger was the other Pioneer named to the All-Tournament Team and finished the day with a total of 15 kills, two blocks, and a dig along with an attacking percentage of .519 in the match. Abby Wills provided 13 digs and two assists for the Pioneers, who outdug Earlham 66 to 51. The Pioneers showed off their frontline power one more time to end the regular season with 52 kills to Earlham's 27.
The Pioneers also reset their program-record win streak for the second time this season by winning their 13th straight match entering their first NCAA Tournament foray.
"This team had a goal going into this season and that goal started a year ago today," said second-year head coach Amy Barmore, who guides the Pioneers' inaugural trip into the NCAA Volleyball Tournament. "There's a goal for every practice and every day they come in, and they achieved that goal. We know we're not done yet and we're ready to dance."
The Pioneers will discover their first dance partner tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time during the NCAA's Division III Volleyball Tournament selection show, which will be streamed live online at NCAA.com. Transylvania will play in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, November 15 at a time and location to be announced tomorrow.
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2019 HCAC Volleyball Tournament All-Tournament Team
Kelsey Ketcham, Hanover
Katryna Dahlberg, Rose-Hulman
Lauren Jackson, Earlham
Julia Stewart, Earlham
Ellie Stigger, Transylvania
Jordan Horne, Transylvania
Hannah Talkers, Transylvania (Tournament MVP)