Ed Beach, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Drury’s first ever trip to the NCAA-II volleyball tournament started with a win as the Panthers, the top seed in the Midwest Region, defeated eighth-seeded Hillsdale 3-1 (20-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-17) on Thursday at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.
Drury dropped the opening set 25-20 but bounced back to win the second 25-22. The Panthers gained momentum and fed off of their home crowd to win the next two sets by identical 25-17 scores.
“We needed to get our composure a little bit better after the first set,” said Drury head coach Jenifer Bahner. “We were nervous or anxious playing in front of just an awesome crowd. That’s all we talked about in the huddle early – let’s just relax and play our game.”
Bree Schmidt had 35 digs for Drury and set the program’s single-season record for digs ending the game with 749 passing the previous mark of 720 set in 2004 by Erin Hoemann.
Emmalee Chrest led the Panthers with 18 kills, and Evan Larson added a solo block with five block assists.
More milestones were set for Drury as Bentley Mara moved into the program’s top ten in career kills. The senior from Harrison, Arkansas had 13 kills, 13 digs, and five block assists in Thursday’s win. Mara passed Rachel Ellis (2002-05) on Drury’s all-time kills chart and has compiled 1,154 entering Friday’s match.
Kenrda Sater had 54 assists in the match for Drury giving her 1,350 for the season, now the fourth-highest total by a Drury player in a single year.
Kara Vyletel led Hillsdale with 17 kills while Paige VanderWall added 15.
The Panthers improved to 28-6 while the Chargers ended their season with a 25-7 record.
Drury advanced to the NCAA-II Regional semifinals where they will play either Lewis or Michigan Tech on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the O’Reilly Family Event Center.