Written by Student Assistant Christian Bond
GEORGETOWN, Texas -The Pacific Lutheran University volleyball team got off to a magnificent start in the 2017 NCAA Division III Tournament with a 3-1 (25-16, 19-25, 25-23, 27-25) win over the fourth-ranked Trinity University in the first round on Friday morning inside Southwestern University's Robertson Center.
PLU (21-4) took care of Trinity (27-8) early in the first set. The score was 20-16 before the Lutes ran off the next five points, including three service aces from Gabrielle Alley. The Tigers answered with a 25-19 win in the second set. The third set was tied at 23 before Mackenzie Harris ripped off back-to-back kills for the 25-23 win. In the final set, PLU trailed 23-20 before tying it up at 23. It was tied again at 25 when Harris finished off Trinity with a game-clinching kill. As a team, the Lutes separated themselves from the Tigers at the service line. PLU had 11 aces to Trinity's two.
"I thought the difference in the match was how tough we served," Head coach Kevin Aoki said. "Mackenzie had a huge match for us. We kept our composure when the going the tough. That was the #4 team in the country that plays in a conference that also has the #1 team in the country in Colorado College and #5 Southwestern, so for to respond like we did was awesome. We are excited to continue the journey!"
Harris led the match in kills with a career-high 20. She was a menace around the net, blocking four of Trinity's attacks. Chloe Epker was excellent for the Lutes, giving the team 10 kills and 16 digs. Danielle Skibiel and Isabella Zubrod had nine kills each.
Kiana Calles was spectacular for PLU. The senior setter had 47 assists while adding 10 digs to her totals. Caylie Shiramizu led the squad defensively, racking up 23 digs in round one of the tournament.
"Going into our game tomorrow we aren't changing our game plan," Julia Hutchison said. "We just need to play with the same confidence and energy that we did today and we are going to be a tough team to beat going forward. There's nothing this group can't do."
"Today we played free and very composed which helped us in getting this win against Trinity," Calles said. "We never got hesitant during the game even when we were down. This was a team win as our bench really contributed to the overall energy! Tomorrow we are just going to play free and have fun."
PLU advances to the round of 32 and will play either Colorado College or New Rochelle on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. (Pacific Time).