FREMONT, Neb. – Midland University’s volleyball team dug deep on Friday night for the comeback five-set thriller over Hastings College in the team’s regular-season Great Plains Athletic Conference finale. The Warriors took the match by scores of 25-20, 23-25, 20-25, 26-24, and 15-12. The win lifts Midland to 10-8 on the year with a 9-7 record in the GPAC. Hastings drops to 7-9 overall and 6-8 in the league.
Midland hit .172 on the night compared to .205 for Hastings. Midland totaled 215 attacks in the five-setter while Hastings had just .166. The match was defined by defense as Hastings proved why they are an elite blocking squad. The Broncos totaled 20 blocks versus six for the Warriors. Midland held the advantage in digs with 89 to Hastings’ 67.
Offensively, the Warriors were led by a 23 kill performance from junior Taliyah Flores. Flores was stout defensively as well, coming away with 20 digs. Seniors Sydney Morehouse and Maggie Hiatt followed with 17 kills and 13 kills, respectively. Senior Megan Aultz was clutch off the bench as she racked up nine kills in three sets of work. Sophomore Hope Leimbach dished out 67 assists to go along with 10 digs. Senior Jaisa Russell led all players with 27 digs while junior Cheyenne Mahnke came away with 11 digs in three sets.
The teams traded points to open the contest with a block from freshman Lauryn Samuelson and Hiatt had the score at 4-4. Back-to-back kills coming from junior Brooke Fredrickson and Flores brought the lead to 8-6. The Broncos battled back to take a narrow lead after a Midland error, but a three-point run reclaimed Midland’s lead at 11-9. The Warrior lead grew after an ace dropped on the side of the opponent to bring things to 18-14. Flores was good for three kills in a five-point span to bring the Midland lead to 22-16. The Broncos put away a pair of blocks down the stretch, but an eventual service error allowed for a 25-20 victory for the home team.
The teams kept things close in the second frame as a Hiatt kill found space down the line, giving Midland the 3-2 edge. Hiatt was successful again as a kill had Midland up 6-4, but Hastings battled back to knot things up following a solo block. Simon stepped in at the service line and sent one across the net for an ace and an 8-6 lead. The Warriors saw their largest lead of the set after Hiatt used the opposing block for a kill, bringing the score to 13-9. Hastings wouldn’t go down quietly and enjoyed a four-point run to tie the score yet again. Midland took advantage of a setting error by Hastings to go up 17-16. Tough serving continued to benefit the Warriors as an ace from Russell saw the score at 20-18. Hastings took a late lead, forcing a Midland timeout after a block had the Broncos up 22-21. Hastings clung on to the lead and captured the second set by a score of 25-23. Hastings hit a blistering .481 on 27 errorless swings in the set.
Hastings looked to have the momentum early, going up 3-1 before Hiatt sliced a kill down the line to slow the roll. Midland tied the score at 5-5 after Fredrickson dropped a shot down the line. Moments later the Warriors would see their first lead of the set after a smart shot from Flores dropped in between a pair of defenders. Morehouse put away a kill with authority, bring Midland’s lead to 9-7 and forcing a Hastings timeout. A trio of hitting errors by the opposition extended the Midland lead to 14-10. The Warriors returned the favor, struggling to put away points and allowing for a 15-14 Hastings lead. A kill from senior Megan Aultz, followed by a Hastings error, allowed Midland to reclaim a narrow 17-16 lead. Morehouse and Leimbach connected out of the middle to tie the score at 20-20. The Warriors ran out of steam down the stretch, dropping the third set by a score of 25-20. The Broncos were a force at the net, coming away with seven total blocks in the set.
The Broncos rode the momentum into the fourth set, going up 6-0 and forcing Midland to burn a timeout. Aultz checked in for the Warriors and picked up her third kill of the night, snapping the Hastings streak. The Midland block showed up by way of Samuelson as a solo denial had Midland down 9-3. Midland’s offense found renewed energy with a pair of kills bringing the score to 12-8. Morehouse would collect a solo block of her own to force a Hastings timeout with the visiting team’s lead dwindling to 12-10. Morehouse put away another kill out of the middle to see her team trailing just 15-14. A three-point run, aided by Midland errors, allowed the Broncos to charge ahead 18-14. Senior Heather Bills registered a crucial kill to bring Midland within one at 20-19. Midland would capture a narrow 22-21 lead after a tough serve from Russell resulted in an attack error by Hastings. The Broncos found set-point by way of a Midland error, but a smart kill from Flores tied the score at 24-24. Hastings committed an error to give Midland set point, and a Morehouse kill ended a defense-heavy rally to secure a 26-24 win. Morehouse had seven kills in the set while Aultz put away four after coming off the bench. Russell had a staggering 13 digs in the fourth set.
Simon opened the final set with an ace which was followed up by a Flores kill, giving Midland the 2-0 advantage. The Warrior run continued as a misplaced set by the Broncos resulted in a 4-0 advantage. Aultz followed up the point with a solo block to give her team a 5-0 edge. Moments later Flores would use the block for a kill, forcing a Hastings timeout with Midland up 6-0. The Broncos would rally back with five-straight points, pulling within one and forcing a Midland timeout. A lengthy rally ended in a Midland error to tie the score at 7-7 before a Hastings kill has the visitors in the lead. Morehouse caught a defender on her heels, recording the kill and tying the score at 9-9. The score would become tied at 11-11 after an Aultz kill found the floor. Midland found set-point at 14-11, but another block from the Broncos delayed the victory. Aultz said no more and dropped in her ninth kill of the night to secure the comeback victory for Midland at 15-12.
“This was a huge win for us for several reasons,” said head coach Paul Giesselmann post-match. “It puts us in a great position. We finished fifth in the best league in the NAIA, so we’re really in a good spot going into the spring. I feel like we’re playing like a top-25 team and when you look at what we had to overcome tonight, it was great to get the win. Hastings was playing really well. They’re playing to get into the conference tournament and they were really aggressive tonight.”
“Unfortunately we had an injury to one of our key players in the middle of on the match which changed everything for us. We ended up having to make some substitutions and had a couple of players that haven’t played much for us this fall. I thought Cheyenne came in and did a great job. Heather came in and did a great job as well. More importantly, when we’re down 6 to 0 in the fourth, I loved the fact that our starting players on the court never hung their heads and everybody kept believing. That’s what a real team does. They just kept battling one point at a time. It was great to finish out the fall season in style.”
Midland (10-8, 9-7 GPAC) will look ahead to the spring as the Great Plains Athletic Conference Tournament will take place in April. The Warriors clinched the 5th-seed with their win tonight and will face Dordt (12-5, 11-15 GPAC) in the first round of the tournament.