Down two games to one in the opening round of the MCC Tournament, the Foresters (24-7) came back and evened the match with a win in game four, then had to rally from a 5-1 deficit in game five to finally pull off the victory 30-25, 28-30, 29-31, 30-25, 15-12 over the University of St. Francis.
Things looked bleak for HU after their sluggish start in game five, but three kills by Amanda Meyers, Natalie Villwock and Heidi Christner pulled the Foresters within one at 7-6 and a few points later, an ace from Alyssa Schroeder knotted the score at 9-9. St. Francis responded with two kills to take the 11-9 lead, but then gave one back with a service error.
Then came the play of the match. When the Cougars' kill attempt deflected off HU's block, Stephanie Stearns and Schroeder made back-to-back diving saves to keep the play alive and Villwock got just enough of her fingertips on the ball to tap it over the net away from the Cougar defense. The crowd erupted and the momentum swung in HU's favor. A St. Francis hitting error gave the Foresters the lead and Kayley Cervenka finished off the Cougars with a kill for the 15-12 win.
The victory is the Foresters' first MCC tournament win in Coach Schroeder's 12 years at the helm. "The girls just hate to lose," said an elated Coach Schroeder. "It's something that can't be coached or practiced. They all just have a desire to win."
Brittney Smelser again had her way at the net with 18 kills. She also added 15 digs and four aces. Villwock chipped in 12 kills, four blocks and two aces. Schroeder was all over the court with 56 assists, 13 digs, eight aces and two blocks, and Stearns led the team with 23 digs.
With the win, the fourth-seeded Foresters will have the opportunity to avenge an early season loss as they travel to Upland to face top-seeded Taylor University on Thursday, November 8 at 7:00 p.m. in an MCC semifinal match.