Volleyball - Thu, Dec. 1, 2016
Georgetown College volleyball had a lot to figure out this season after graduating six valuable seniors from the 2015 team. The youthful crew did not need much time to establish a new chemistry, working the way up the rankings and eventually being as high as No. 8 for nearly a month. The No. 11 Tigers (29-10) had a streak of 13 straight wins, highlighted by a four-set home victory over then No. 3 Lindsey Wilson College.
Unfortunately a string of tough luck led to a surprising end Thursday afternoon. GC dropped its third match to No. 6 Eastern Oregon University, finishing the 2016 NAIA National Volleyball Championship pool play winless. The Mountaineers (31-2) won Pool F with a 25-16, 25-18, 26-24 win over Georgetown.
"Teams make it to Iowa for a reason and this was a tough year for us here," said GC coach Nick Griffin. "We had a shot and that is all you can ask for. I'm very proud of the overall season we had and the things we accomplished for being so young."
Senior Ashlee Howe went out with a bang, leading the team with nine kills on 24 swings and just two errors. Jenny Howell had seven kills. Caroline Ricks added six. Seniors Courtney Grafton and Maddie Kunkel were the staples on a very strong Tiger defense. Grafton finished with 13 digs against EOU and Kunkel add eight. Gracen Howard had 10 and Howell nine, while Sarah Bell finished the three-day event with her third double-double.
The sophomore dished out 25 assists, upping her total to 1,312, and 10 digs. Before the match she was ninth nationally in assists per game (10.9) and 20th in total assists with 1,287. Howell was ranked 13th in total kills (506) and Howe was ranked 16th in total blocks (146). The senior added another solo block and two block assists to finish off her career with 520 total blocks.
The Tigers started strong, winning 18 of its first 20 matches. They won nine of the next 13, but struggled in postseason and for the first time dropped back-to-back matches in Iowa.
GC had 21 of its 29 wins come in straight set fashion, only dropping two in the same way and both at the national tournament.
The Tigers finished ranked in the top 25 nationally in five categories – total blocks (311), kills (1831), total assist (1631), total blocks per game (2.25) and kills per game (13.3) – without even counting what happened in the final match with EOU.
"It is such a long season and we maybe peaked a little early, compounded with some untimely injures, but this just fuels us to finish what we started," Griffin said.