Written by Student Assistant Christian Bond
GEORGETOWN, Texas -The Northwest Conference Champion Pacific Lutheran University volleyball team took number one ranked Colorado College to its limit on Saturday, falling short in the fifth set in a 3-2 (21-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-21, 15-8) setback in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament held at Southwestern University's Robertson Center.
PLU (21-5) grabbed the first set, utilizing a Tiger attack error and a Mackenzie Harris kill to secure the 25-21 win. The second set was a nailbiter with the score tied at 23 before Colorado College (33-1) capitalized on a kill and a Lute attack error to take the 25-23 win. Pacific Lutheran trailed 8-4 in the third set but battled back and cemented the 25-21 set win on an Emma Peters service ace. The Lutes scored four of the first five points in the fourth set but the Tigers roared back to take the set 25-21.
The Lutes led 4-2 in the decisive fifth set but CC stormed back, utilizing an 11-2 run en route to the 15-8 win to secure the match and advance to the Sweet 16.
PLU owned an edge on Colorado College in several stat categories. The Lutes owned a 12-9 edge in aces, a 15-10 edge in blocks, and committed 12 fewer errors than the nation's top ranked team.
"We came into the regional tournament knowing that it would be a tough road. We were one and done the last eight regionals so to come here and play well and beat Trinity and then give the No. 1 team in the country a run for their money so to speak, says a lot about our team and the composure and togetherness it takes to play at this level," said NWC Coach of the Year Kevin Aoki. "Although we didn't win on the scoreboard, we certainly won in the fact we know we left it all out on the floor. We're more sad about our seniors leaving not necessarily the loss to Colorado College and I;m certainly proud of the team."
PLU offensive production was evenly distributed. Chloe Epker led the team in kills with nine. Isabella Zubrod has eight kills, while Mackenzie Harris and McKenna Ventura both had seven. Danielle Skibiel had a solid game, finishing with six kills along with 10 blocks while Epker added six blocks.
Kinna Calles helped the offense flow. In her final game as a Lute, the Northwest Conference Player of the Year had 33 assists. Caylie Shiramizu dug up several attacks, 17 to be exact.
PLU's tournament run began on Friday, downing fourth-ranked Trinity University 3-1 to set up the second round clash with No. 1 Colorado College.