Wildcats fall in five-set thriller in NSIC semifinals

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Wayne State and regular-season champion St. Cloud State hooked up in a five-set thriller Friday in the semifinals of the Northern Sun Conference tournament, with the top-seeded Huskies claiming a 23-25, 25-18, 21-25, 25-19, 15-9 victory.

The Wildcats trailed the entire first set until a late rally gave them the early advantage. Wayne State trailed 20-16 but battled back to tie the score at 21-21 on a Husky attack error. With St. Cloud leading 23-22, WSC got a kill from Jaz DeHaan followed by back-to-back kills from Taya Beller to cap the first set comeback.

St. Cloud State came back in the second set and led start to finish to tie the match, hitting .457 in the second set.

The third set was a battle featuring 12 ties and eight lead changes, but Wayne State charged late and broke an 18-18 tie to take the 2-1 set advantage. WSC trailed 20-19, but got a kill from Cada followed by two straight kills from Beller to take a 22-20 lead and go on to the third-set win. Beller had six kills for the Wildcats followed by Cada with four.

St. Cloud State came back in the fourth set and notched a 25-19 win the even the match.  The Huskies turned an 8-8 tie into a 16-9 lead midway through the set to take control, and that momentum carried into the final set, where St. Cloud took an early 8-2 lead and went on to post the five-set win and advance to Saturday’s championship matchup against Winona State.

Cada had a team-high 19 kills for Wayne State. DeHaan finished with 15, Taya Beller 14 and Maggie Brahmer 12 for the Wildcats. Lauren Jacobsen paced the ‘Cats in digs with 19 followed by Elly Larson with 13. Setter Rachel Walker handed out 52 set assists.

Wayne State (22-8) was ranked eighth in the final NCAA Div. II Central Region rankings and will have to wait for the NCAA selection show Monday evening at 6:30 p.m. to see if the Wildcats receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Div. II National Tournament.

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