MASON, Ohio – For the fourth time in five years, top seeded Cedarville was crowned the Great Midwest Athletic Conference volleyball tournament champion after edging Davis & Elkins in an entertaining five-set affair on Saturday.
Despite already being regionally ranked, the Yellow Jackets officially secured their place in the NCAA Championship field with the automatic qualifier and will learn of their destination at 7:30 p.m. EST on Monday evening during the selection show.
Cedarville now heads into the national tournament with a 26-8 record after outlasting the Senators, 3-2 (25-14, 31-33, 25-17, 22-25, 15-8).
Davis & Elkins was resilient by overcoming first and third-game setbacks, but after taking a 2-0 lead in the final frame, was victim of a 5-0 run following a timeout that started unrecoverable momentum.
G-MAC Player of the Year Gabby Olson of Cedarville swatted 19 kills to lead all players as both teams had four players each in double-digit kill totals.
Cedarville’s Olson was joined by sophomore Taylor Wilkerson with 16 kills (and six blocks), senior Abby Shelton with 13 kills (and 21 digs) and junior Krissy Pratt with 11. Senior setter Kristin Cardwell had 59 assists.
D&E’s Sasha Johnson ripped 18 kills on just 31 swings (.452) while Devin Saucy (13), Elizabeth Estes (12) and Anna Gallup (11), all contributed to the offensive cause.
The second set resulted in the favor of D&E, 33-31, after the Senators and Yellow Jackets kept trading blows at set point. D&E reeled off three straight points after trailing 31-30 and finished off the set to tie with a block from Raleigh Weaver and Anna Gallup.
The Yellow Jackets were G-MAC champs in 2012, 2013 and 2014, but it wasn’t quite enough for Cedarville to get into the national tournament. G-MAC Coach of the Year Doug Walters has always assembled a schedule with tough regional competition and the hard work his program has put in is paying off at the highest level.
“This year’s group is a special group,” Walters said. “The goal has always been the NCAA. That’s what we’ve been pushing for. Being regionally ranked for the first time ever in program history; we needed to win this thing to assure that we could get in. We look forward to representing the conference this year.”
Following a kill by Estes and a block by Saucy up front to start the fifth set, the Yellow Jackets had to dig in deep as Walters signaled timeout to slow things down and get back on track.
Wilkerson, the 2015 G-MAC Freshman of the Year, recorded four kills in the final frame and continued to really make an impression as an emerging talent who makes a noticeable impact.
The Senators continued to make huge strides in just the second year of Kylie Heyne’s coaching at the helm. D&E won the Black division, secured one of the top seeds, and won in the semifinals against No. 3 Ursuline.
D&E finished the season at 15-17 while several seniors closed out their careers, including Estes, who reached the 1,000-kill milestone earlier this season. Estes racked up 1,031 kills in her career, sixth-best all time in G-MAC history.