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HU suffers a pair of losses to some of the best in the nation

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COLUMBIA, Mo. - The HU volleyball team is spending part of their Labor Day weekend at one of the best tournaments in the country, the Columbia College Hampton Inn Invitational, and while they went 0-2 on day one, Coach Shondell’s crew made it clear they can go toe-to-toe with anyone.

Despite getting a late start because of bus troubles, spending more than seven hours on the road and arriving just 20 minutes before their first match, the Foresters still managed to give #12 Missouri Baptist University all they could handle before falling to the Spartans in five, 25-21, 22-25, 17-25, 25-20, 15-10.

It was a performance Shondell was quick to praise his team for. “As aggressive and relentless as they were, we were just as aggressive.”

After dropping set one, Huntington stormed back to take control of the match by winning the next two which included never trailing in the second set. It had all the makings of an upset but the Spartans proved why they are one of the best in the business by regrouping to claim the next two sets for the comeback victory.  

Most impressive about HU’s play was their defense at the net. Huntington finished with 13 blocks to MBU’s four. Josie Beaver and Lauren Cresse each posted 4.5 blocks - both registering more individually than the Spartans combined.

HU also outplayed Missouri Baptist behind the line by committing just seven service errors to the Spartans’ 15.

“Our serving and blocking were the reason we hung around in the match,” said Shondell. “It was one of the more impressive blocking displays I’ve seen in my time here.”

Beaver also paced her team offensively by logging 11 kills and a .304 hitting percentage. The senior middle came into the tourney ranked 24th in the NAIA in blocks per game (1.19) and 37th in hitting percentage (.326).

Tailor Schultheis and Danielle Gurwell added nine and eight kills respectively.  

“Missouri Baptist is one of the best teams in America, and they look the part,” said Shondell.

The Foresters took a short break before facing an even higher ranked team in #3 Park University. Unfortunately, the long day seemed to take its toll as Shondell’s squad suffered its first sweep of the year, 25-16, 25-15, 25-14.

“Without beating around the bush, we used most of our tank in the opening match not leaving much for the second,” Shondell said. “And when the second is against the third best team in the country, that’s a bad combination.”

Park boasts a potent offensive attack that’s fueled by Nada Meawad - the nation’s top hitter at 5.1 kills per set. HU didn’t have an answer for the 6-0 freshman as she finished with 14 kills at a hitting accuracy of .458. As a team, the Pirates outhit HU 48-25 with Schultheis topping Huntington with eight kills.

“They’ve got one of the best outside hitters in the nation and she earned her stripes,” said Shondell of Meawad’s play.

The Foresters didn’t miss a serve and blocks were a wash as each team recorded six.

Breanna Levings finished with a team-best 28 assists on the day while Kate Cobb took top honors in digs for both games to finish with 27 total.

It doesn’t get any easy for the Foresters (5-4) as they open up Saturday morning against host #8 Columbia College before taking on Friends University a few hours later.

The Huntington University Foresters compete in 17 intercollegiate sports for men and women. In the past decade, Huntington has produced 38 NAIA All-America honors and 274 All-America Scholar Athlete honors. Huntington University is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 70 academic concentrations. U.S. News & World Report ranks Huntington among the best colleges in the Midwest.