SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Rocky Mountain College wrapped up its stay at the NAIA national volleyball championship tournament on Thursday afternoon with a five-set loss to The Master’s College of California, 25-21, 26-24, 18-25, 17-25, 15-8.
It was the third straight five-set setback for No. 25-ranked Battlin’ Bears, who finished their season at 25-9 after going 0-3 in pool play at the 24-team tournament being held at the Tyson Events Center.
The Master’s College, 23-8 and ranked 16th nationally, went 3-0 in pool play and will advance to the 12-team, single-elimination championship bracket beginning on Friday.
“This team again proved their worthiness of being a top team and competing against the best,” Rocky coach Laurie Kelly said of her young Bears. “We will build on this experience.”
In its final match, Rocky was led by sophomore outside hitter Ahlea Billis, who compiled a team-high 20 kills and 19 digs. Junior middle hitter Yang Yang chipped in with 13 kills, 10 digs and 3.5 blocks.
Sophomore setter Tori Bertsch also had a double-double of 47 assists and 17 digs. Junior BrieAnna Geck supplied 10 kills.
Rocky had 13 blocks, while The Master’s had one.
Kelly said her team “got the most out of our three matches” at nationals and “the girls enjoyed this experience.
“(Assistant) coach (Sarah) Irigoin and I are so proud of them for their hard work all season,” Kelly said.
Sam Dougherty of The Master’s wound up with 27 kills and 18 digs. Teammate Olivia Gwinn notched 33 digs.
The Master’s led 9-7 in the decisive fifth set before rattling off five consecutive points. The rally was fueled by the hitting of Aubrey Pyburn, Ashley Newton and Dougherty.
Rocky, one of two teams at nationals with no seniors on its roster, won the Frontier Conference postseason tournament and earned a trip to Iowa by winning at the College of Idaho in a national play-in match.
This was the Bears’ third trip to nationals in the last four years.
NAIA National Tournament
at Sioux City, Iowa
Thursday pool play
The Master’s def. Rocky 25-21, 26-24, 18-25, 17-25, 15-8
Rocky Mountain College (25-9) — Kills: 63 (Ahlea Billis 20, Yang Yang 13, BrieAnna Geck 10). Assists: 57 (Tori Bertsch 47). Aces: 2 (Jennifer Donaldson 1, Brooke Myers 1). Digs: 96 (Billis 19, Myers 18, Bertsch 17, Donaldson 11, Kylie Nielsen 11, Yang 10). Blocks: 13 (Nielsen 3.5, Yang 3.5).
The Master’s College, Calif. (23-8) — Kills: 69 (Sam Dougherty 27, Allison Child 11, Ashley Newton 10). Assists: 63 (Aubrey Bekendam 58). Aces: 5 (Dougherty 2, Olivia Gwinn 2). Digs: 105 (Rebecca Peluffo 33, Dougherty 18, Bekendam 13, Sydney Hamilton 13, Emily Clark 10). Blocks: 1.