Ed Beach, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Drury’s historic volleyball season came to an end in the NCAA-II Midwest Regional semifinals in a 3-1 loss to Lewis (25-17, 25-16, 22-25, 25-18) on Friday at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.
The Panthers ended the season with a 28-7 record while the Flyers advanced to the regional championship game with a 27-7 mark.
Drury was playing in their first NCAA-II tournament in program history, and their 28 wins were the most by the Panthers since they moved to Division II in 1994.
Lewis jumped on Drury early building a 6-1 lead to start the match and took advantage of nine attack errors by the Panthers in the opening set on their way to a 25-17 win in the first. Drury had the second set tied at 9-9, but the Flyers picked up eight of the next 10 points and took a 2-0 lead in the match winning the set 25-16.
The Panthers won the third 25-22 but fell behind in the fourth set and could not recover as Lewis closed out the match with a 25-18 win in the fourth.
“This was the first time for all of us, players and coaches included, to be in this big of a match and we started a slow making a lot of back-to-back errors,” said Drury head coach Jenifer Bahner. “Errors are OK…we tell our team we are going to make some but what we don’t want to do is make them back-to-back. Unfortunately, we did that in the first set, and we got a little afraid to put pressure on the ball.”
Lewis, meanwhile, featured a balanced attack led by Caroline Stefanon with 15 kills while Alexandra Preusse added 14 and Elizabeth Hyland had 12. Abby Becker contributed 47 assists.
Bentley Mara and Emmalee Chrest both had 12 kills for Drury while Kendra Sater contributed 40 assists. Bree Schmidt, who set Drury’s single-season digs record in Thursday’s opening round win, added to her career total with 25 and Kayla Allison chipped in with 23 digs.
The Panthers not only had their most wins since 1994, but it topped their previous high-mark by six victories. Before this season, Drury had never advanced beyond the quarterfinal round of their conference tournament but this year got to the GLVC championship game and earned their first bid to the NCAA-II tournament. The Panthers also tied for the GLVC regular season title, their first such championship of any kind since ’94. Drury earned their first NCAA-II national ranking this season and entered the regional ranked 15th in the country.
“Our seniors gave a lot of success to this program,” said Bahner. “They set a new standard, and the message to our underclassmen is that now they see what it is going to take for us to do this from now on. This is now the standard, and this is the level we expect to play at. That means, right now, we have to start thinking about what it’s going to take to make next year just a little bit better.”
Drury graduates four seniors and all four were all-conference players at one point in their career. Schmidt, Mara, and Chrest were named all-league performers this season while Sarah Kite was named to the all-conference team last year.
The Panthers will return two other All-GLVC picks in junior Kendra Sater and sophomore Taylor Forth along with eight other returning letter winners.
Lewis will face Rockhurst on Saturday in the Midwest Regional championship game at 6 p.m. in the O’Reilly Family Event Center.