Transylvania kicked off HCAC tournament play against the Bluffton Beavers on Saturday afternoon. That game was to be followed by a match-up with Rose-Hulman or Earlham. Their winner was to go to finals for a chance to win the conference tournament and continue their season into the NCAA tournament.
Transylvania started off by winning the first two sets handily (25-18 and 25-19). The Pioneer crowd was lively, and the players fed off that energy. Junior Abby Wills led the way defensively with 21 digs helping spark the offense, and Transylvania took advantage of Bluffton’s inability to spike the ball effectively to get hitting opportunities of their own.
Huge kills from junior Jordan Horne, sophomore Ellie Stigger, and senior Jennifer Buckman throughout the opening sets really energized the crowd. Setter and reigning conference Player of the Year, junior Hannah Talkers, did a great job spreading the wealth, with a game-high 43 assists to go with 13 digs as well.
Bluffton bounced back in the third set, 25-22. The Pioneers only needed to win one more set to advance to the finals. The crowd was roaring for their team. Going into the fourth set, intensity in the Beck Center was mounting. Both teams played very evenly in the set and the score was 22-20 in favor of Bluffton. Then the Pioneers went on an amazing five point run to close out the set and match.
Rose-Hulman took care of Earlham in the game following Transylvania’s to set up Sunday afternoon’s showdown for the HCAC tournament.
So Transy took on the Rose-Hulman Engineers Sunday afternoon. Rose-Hulman is the only team from the HCAC the Pioneers had lost to this season. Rose-Hulman started out strong, taking the opening set from Transy (25-21). The Engineers did a great job of using their size advantage to alter and block Transy’s spike attempts early, and used that advantage to generate their own offense.
The Pioneers bounced back with great offensive play from Talkers, Stigger, junior Taryn Glass, and Horne to capture the second set. Hannah Talkers led the game in assists and surpassed her previous total by notching 46 assists. The biggest beneficiary of those was former HCAC Rookie of the Year, Ellie Stigger, with 19 kills.
The third set was hard-fought between these two teams, each going on runs and using its time-outs. Rose-Hulman used these timeouts to stay loose without even meeting with their coaches, just singing along to the music and dancing in a group. That positive energy carried them on the court, facing both our team and our large and energetic home crowd.
After a lot of back and forth play between the two teams, the set was tied at 23-23 when Rose-Hulman called a time-out. The Pioneer crowd was on their feet cheering. But the Engineers scored back-to-back points that completely swung the momentum their direction. Rose-Hulman cruised in the last set with a score of 25-17 in victory over our Pioneers.
Our Women’s Volleyball team had an amazing season, winning the conference in the regular season and having an impressive 15-11 against multiple nationally-ranked teams. The Pioneers are only losing two seniors going into next season, so they are optimistic they’ll have another opportunity to make it to the NCAAs next year.