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Grace tops SAU in thriller

WINONA LAKE, Ind. – Grace’s volleyball team benefitted from a rambunctious crowd at the Manahan Orthopaedic Capital Center to beat Spring Arbor 3-1 on Friday.

The Lady Lancers (8-3, 2-1 Crossroads League) were led by the three-headed attack of seniors Marta Bleed, Kelsee Zuidema and Caylie Teel in a hard-fought contest.

Zuidema and Bleed tied for match honors with 15 kills, and Zuidema added three aces and three block assists. Teel was dynamic on both ends of the court, tallying 11 kills and a season-high 26 digs.

Bleed and Zuidema were electric from the start on Friday. The duo combined for 12 kills in the first set alone, helping Grace to a 25-20 win.

In the second set, Grace slowly built up a lead en route to a six-point win. Teel racked up six kills in the set, and Zuidema aced twice.

The Cougars (9-4, 0-3 CL) found revenge in the third set. SAU hit at a .313 percentage and held Grace to just six kills in a 25-12 route.

The match seemed poised to head to extra sets as the Cougars grabbed momentum late. Grace held a comfortable 21-14 lead in the fourth set before seeing it evaporate entirely. SAU went on an 8-1 run to tie the score at 22-22.

The Cougars held off one match point to tie the game again at 24-24, but Grace ended the match with an authoritative kill by Zuidema and an attack error by the Cougars.

Alexa Hill was the mastermind behind Grace’s attack, passing out 43 assists and adding nine digs and four block assists.

Makaela Lochmueller had five kills and a season-best seven block assists, and Hanna Leach added three kills off the bench in her return from injury.

Grace and SAU hit at an identical .146 percentage, but Grace had an edge in blocks and digs. The Lady Lancers had nine block points as a team to go along with 80 digs.

Gina Novotny (16 digs), Deborah Michalski (13 digs) and Makayla Bell (11 digs) were consistent contributors on the back line defensively. Michalski’s 13 digs were a career high.

The Lady Lancers will face one of their stiffest tests of the season on Saturday. Grace plays at league-leading No. 19 St. Francis at 4 p.m., hoping to snap a 10-match winning streak by USF.