Lexington, Ky. – The Transylvania volleyball team advanced to its first Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship match in six years by defeating the Bluffton University Beavers 3-1 on Saturday afternoon in the HCAC Semifinals at the Beck Center.
The Pioneers collected their second four-set win of the season against the Beavers in as many meetings with a 25-18, 25-19, 22-25, 25-22 final to advance to Sunday's championship match where they will face the No. 2 seed Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Fightin' Engineers for the conference tournament championship.
In the second semifinal match of the day, Rose-Hulman beat No. 3 seed Earlham College in four sets to return to the HCAC title match for the second straight year.
The Pioneers moved to 15-10 for the 2018 campaign as the No. 1 seed and host team gave Bluffton all it could handle in the first two sets of the afternoon before the Beavers swung back, making Transylvania's procession to the championship adverse.
Junior right side hitter Jordan Horne delivered a gallant offensive performance, leading the Pioneers with 20 kills against four errors to go with five digs and an assist. Horne swung a .381 hitting percentage in Saturday's victory against the Beavers as she advanced into the first conference title match of her and her teammates' college careers.
Junior setter Hannah Talkers joined Horne with a poignant performance, registering a match-high 43 assists, and added 13 digs, five kills, and four total blocks. Sophomore middle blocker Ellie Stigger also came up with a series of powerful deliveries, offering 15 kills and three digs, and some timely putaways when the Pioneers needed them most.
In the first set, the Pioneers strung together a nearly flawless attack as their rhythm looked apparent with 14 kills to just 3 errors. In the second set, the Pioneers offense was barely slowed while the Beavers struggled with precision; the visitors were hindered by 12 errors to eight kills in the second set as the Pioneers went ahead two sets to none.
The third set featured a see-saw of momentum as the set looked to go to either team at any given time. After several ties and lead changes, the Pioneers tied the match again at 17-17. Bluffton built a 19-17 advantage and was able to pull away to a three-point victory after the Beavers thwarted a final rally from the Pioneers.
Horne started off the fourth set with a kill along the right side to boost the Pios to a 4-1 start. Bluffton quickly rallied back to achieve a 10-8 lead following a kill by Jessie Gibson. The Pioneers and Beavers then went back and forth in a dramatic fourth set before the Beaveres broke a 19-all tie to go ahead 21-19 on a kill from Brooke Kleman. Transylvania inched back by one following a Bluffton error, but Gibson came up with another kill to put Bluffton in charge, 22-20.
The match suddenly turned and ended just as soon. Horne responded with two gutty kills to tie the match at 22-22. Bluffton called for a timeout to stem the tide, but the Pioneers came out of the break focused and intent on advancing to its first championship match since 2012. Stigger took two accurate setups from Talkers to score points 23 and 24, and senior outside hitter Jennifer Buckman swung through from the left side and hit to put the Pioneers into the championship match.
The Pioneers and Engineers will square off for the second time in 2018 at the Beck Center on Sunday, November 4 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. Their lone previous match of the season was a season-opening three-set win by the Engineers on September 29. Since then, the Pioneers have won nine straight matches against HCAC opponents.
The winner of Sunday's match will receive the conference's automatic qualifying bid into the NCAA Tournament.
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