The third time proved to be the charm for eighth-ranked St. Cloud State as they outlasted top-rated Wayne State in an epic five-set battle Saturday in the Northern Sun Conference Volleyball Tournament semifinals played at Rice Auditorium, winning 20-25, 25-23, 25-14, 19-25, 15-11.
The first set saw 11 ties and five lead changes between the two clubs. WSC trailed 15-14, but took the lead for good with a Taya Beller kill followed by an SCSU attack error and Kelsie Cada kill to take a 17-15 lead.
SCSU was within one at 20-19, but the Wildcats got three straight blocks including back-to-back blocks by Taylor Bunjer and Maggie Brahmer to close out the opening set. WSC forced 12 Husky attack errors in the first set that included five blocks.
The Wildcats led for most of the second set until a late rally by the Huskies tied up the match.
WSC was in front 14-10 and still led 17-15 when the Huskies scored four straight points for a 19-17 lead.
The ‘Cats battled back and took a 21-20 lead following a pair of Husky attack errors, but SCSU responded and scored four straight points for a 24-21 advantage. WSC closed to within 24-23, but the Huskies ended the set with a kill to tie the match at a set apiece.
St. Cloud State controlled the third set with a stellar hitting percentage of .586, producing 18 kills and just one error to take the 2-1 advantage, but the Wildcats regained the momentum quickly in the fourth set ,taking an early 7-2 advantage. SCSU got as close as three at 12-9, then the Wildcats scored four straight points capped by a Havyn Heinz service ace and Channatee Robles kill for a 16-9 cushion. They led by as many as 10 points to set up the fifth-set tiebreaker. Maggie Brahmer had four kills in the set followed by Robles with three.
The fifth set was back and forth through the midway point with eight ties and three lead changes, but the Huskies scored five of the final six points to come away with the win, ending a two-match losing streak to the WIldcats, who beat St. Cloud twice during the regular season.
St. Cloud State finished the match hitting .242 to .196 for the Wildcats. The Huskies held a 72-52 edge in digs and had nine service aces to seven by the Wildcats. Wayne State had the advantage in blocks 15-9.5.
Beller led Wayne State in hitting with 14 kills followed by Kelsie Cada at 13 and Brahmer 11. Brahmer and Bunjer each had six blocks for WSC with Beller adding five. Senior setter Rachel Walker recorded a double-double with 38 set assists and 15 digs while senior libero Jordan McCormick accounted for 12 digs.
Wayne State (28-2) ended a 21-game winning streak and now awaits their seeding with an expected at-large bid to the NCAA Div. II national tournament. The NCAA Div. II Volleyball selection show will be streamed online on Monday, Nov. 20 at 6:30 p.m. on NCAA.com.