Grace spikers power past pair in Illinois

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Grace’s volleyball team kicked off the Olivet Nazarene Tournament with two impressive victories on Friday.

Grace beat St. Xavier in four sets and swept Campbellsville, who is receiving votes in the NAIA poll. The Lady Lancers (15-5) have now won seven of their past eight matches.

In the opener, Grace’s offense powered past St. Xavier. Caylie Teel played inspired volleyball, leading all players with 17 kills and 22 digs in just four sets.

The teams split the first two sets. Grace won 25-20 in the opener, and the Cougars (10-5) countered 25-21 in the second set.

In the third set, Hanna Leach sparked Grace late. The Lady Lancers held a small 20-18 lead, but Leach powered out two late kills, and Deborah Michalski added an ace as Grace pulled away.

The fourth set was even closer. Grace was on the verge of victory with a 24-20 lead. But St. Xavier admirably scored four straight to tie the game at 24-24. Teel then gave Grace the lead with a kill, and the match ended with an attack error by the Cougars.

Alexa Hill handed out 45 assists to go along with 10 digs, and Kelsee Zuidema had 11 kills and eight digs.

Gina Novotny dug up 22 balls, and Michalski added 15 digs. Leach and Makaela Lochmueller each had nine kills and produced at least a .400 hitting percentage, and Marta Bleed tallied eight kills.

Grace’s defense helped carry the team to a sweep of Campbellsville in the nightcap. The Lady Lancers had six team blocks compared to one for the Tigers (11-6). Grace also had a 65-57 advantage in digs.

The match started closely in the first set. The score was tied 13 times in the first game alone, including at 20, 22, 23 and 24. Zuidema produced two timely kills in the latter stages, and Teel ended the match with a kill at 26-24.

The Lady Lancers coasted in the next two games, winning 25-16 each time. The Tigers were muted offensively, racking up 15 attack errors combined in those two sets to help Grace sweep.

Zuidema notched a match-high 13 kills on a .276 percentage, Bleed had nine kills, and Teel added eight kills and 16 digs.

Hill had another double-double with 32 assists and 11 digs, and Novotny and Michalski each tallied 12 digs.

The Lady Lancers end the tournament on Saturday, playing No. 3 Columbia and the host Olivet Nazarene.