REGION CHAMPS: Wildcats come back to win Central title


ST. PAUL, Minn. — Wayne State made a miraculous comeback in the fourth set, scoring the final 10 points to shock top-seeded Concordia-St. Paul and claim the Div. II Central Regional title Saturday night at the Gangelhoff Center.

Third-ranked Wayne State trailed 20-15 in the fourth set, but ran off an improbable 10 points in a row to win the championship over the Golden Bears, 27-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-20.

The opening set was a wild one as the two teams combined for 18 ties and seven lead changes.

Concordia-St. Paul looked to be in position to take the first set with a 21-18 lead, but the Wildats scored four in a row, highlighted by consecutive solo blocks by Taya Beller and a combo block with Beller and Rachel Walker, to take a 22-21 advantage.

Both teams had chances to win the first set, but the Wildcats erased a 25-24 deficit with consecutive kills by Kelsie Cada and ended the set with a block by Cada and Walker.

In the second set, CSP ralled from an early 7-4 lead and took the lead for good at 10-9. Wayne State got with one at 19-18 on a Beller kill, but the Golden Bears held on to tie the match at a set apiece.

Wayne State took control of the match in the third set, getting three straight kills from Maggie Brahmer and an ace serve by Cada to make it 11-5. Wayne State led by as many as seven and held off a late rally by the Golden Bears to take a 2-1 match advantage.

The Wildcats appeared to be headed to a fifth set as Concordia-St. Paul built a 20-15 advantage, but Wayne State was not going to go away quietly and, in fact, came back to claim the title with an improbable 10-0 run to close out the match.

Kills by Cada and Channatee Robles and a CSP error cut the deficit to 20-18, and blocks by Brahmer and Taylor Bunjer tied the match at 20-20, forcing the Golden Bears to call their second timeout.

The timeout did nothing to stop the momentum, as a CSP error was followed by a Robles kill and two straight terminations by Brahmer to get to match point. Cada’s serve was mishandled by the Golden Bears, completing the comeback for the 31-2 Wildcats as they secured their first Elite Eight trip since 2015.

The Wildcats hit .360 for the match, had a 9-4 advantage in service aces and recorded 12 blocks on defense.

Beller led four Wildcats in double figure kills at 16. Cada followed with 15, Brahmer 13 and Robles 11. Beller had a team-high six blocks that included three solo blocks. Brahmer, Bunjer and Walker each added four blocks. 

Havyn Heinz led the team in digs with 16 with libero Jordan McCormick added 13. Walker finished the night with 49 assists.

Five Wildcats were named to the All-Tournament Team, including Brahmer, Beller, McCormick, Cada and Walker.

The Wildcats move on to the Elite Eight, set for Dec. 7-9 in Moon Township, Penn.

They will face Cal State Los Angeles in an 11 a.m. game on Thursday.