CASPER, Wyo. – Blinn College volleyball made things interesting in its national semifinal match against Southern Idaho by losing the third and fourth sets but the Buccaneers were able to recapture the momentum to win 3-2 to advance to the national finals Nov. 21.
Blinn was able to earn the five-set victory by the score of 25-19, 25-23, 12-25, 23-25 and 15-11 in the Casper Events Center in Casper, Wyo.
The match between Southern Idaho and Blinn was very similar to the national final but it only turned out to be a semifinal as the Buccaneers will be playing for the national title and CSI will be playing for third place Nov. 22.
"We were really up and down at times," said Blinn head coach Erin Mellinger, who also coached as an assistant at Southern Idaho previously. "We knew it could possibly go five because CSI is a good team."
Trinity Alualu was able to lead the Buccaneers in kills with 15 while earning 12 digs. Tawnee Luafalemana had 13 kills and five block assists. Abolanle Onipede had an effective match at the net with a hitting percentage of .389 with 10 kills and seven block assists. Rebecca Reeve also hit double digits in the win at 11 and Jordyn Keamo earned 49 assists.
"We just pushed each other and we kept believing that we could do it," Onipede said after the match. "Even if it was going to go to a fifth set we believed that we could come out on top."
Blinn looked impressive in the first set as it jumped out to a 14-9 lead lead after a Luafalemana block. The momentum never shifted in Southern Idaho's direction as the Buccaneers held on to win the first 25-19.
The second set was a little different as CSI shot out to a 15-8 lead but it was Blinn fighting back and eventually tying the set at 20-20 after a block from Luafalemana. The next five points for the Buccaneers didn't come easy but Alualu closed out the set with a kill for the 25-23 win and a 2-0 lead.
Blinn was not able to get the sweep as the third set turned into one that the Buccaneers would like to soon forget as they dropped it 25-12. The fourth set was much more competitive but CSI came away with the pivotal points down the stretch to force a fifth set with a 25-23 victory in the fourth.
Momentum was swinging in the direction of Southern Idaho after winning the last two sets but Blinn didn't back down. Two consecutive kills from Reeve gave Blinn a 11-10 lead and then after CSI tied it at 11-11 the Buccaneers put together their four most important points of the season by scoring those points in a row to close out the match on an ace from Rebecca Proske to win 15-11 to punch a ticket to the national finals.
Blinn College will square off against Miami Dade College Nov. 22 for the Division I National Volleyball championship at 6:30 p.m. (Mountain time).
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 29 NJCAA national championships since 1987. For more information, visit www.buccaneersports.com.
About Blinn College
Founded in 1883, Blinn is a comprehensive community college committed to educational excellence and to individual and community enhancement. With an enrollment of 19,317 students, Blinn ranks among the nation's leaders in transferring students to leading four-year universities and has received national recognition for affordable educational excellence.
As part of its commitment to student success, Blinn is implementing a Quality Enhancement Plan titled "Destination Success: First-Year Focus," which utilizes learning communities to support first-year college students.
For enrollment information and to learn about financial aid opportunities, visit: www.blinn.edu.