Oct. 31 – BETHANY, W. Va. – The Bison Volleyball team became the first program in the history of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference to start the season 17-0 in conference play as they defeated Thomas More College, 3-0, on Thursday evening.
Bethany dominated the night, winning the match by taking the sets 25-12, 26-24 and25-11, as well as holding the Saints to a, season-low, .028 hitting percentage.
“It was just a great night for the team,” remarked Kline of the victory. “All the hard work that this team has done, as well as all the effort put in by the team’s that came before them, are really paying off for Bethany Volleyball as a whole.”
The Bison started the match off by jumping all over Thomas More in the first set, 25-12. Over the course of the game, freshmen Alexis Castro (Lorain, Pa./Lorain), Dakota McKenzie (Hopewell, Ohio/West Muskingum) and Dylana McKenzie (Hopewell, Ohio/West Muskingum) combined for 12 kills while making no errors. The team also managed to total four team blocks and held TMC to a -.061 hitting percentage in the game to go up, 1-0.
“The skill level of our freshmen class is just amazing,” said junior middle blocker, Breana Harris (Severn, Md./Old Mill). “Typically when freshmen come in, it takes some time to learn your game, and learn how to be productive and play well in big games. But it seems as though our freshmen class this year came in being able to do that, and Coach Kline has been able to help them continuously get better.”
In game two, the score remained much closer, with the game seeing nine ties but only one lead change. Thomas More would hold the lead until the score was tied at 10-10. A kill by Harris put the Bison ahead for good at 11-10. With Bethany up 23-20, Thomas More would rally and tie the game at 24-24. However, another kill by Harris gave Bethany a one point lead, and a miscue by the Saints gave the Bison the 26-24 win in game two.
Game three was once again dominated by Bethany. The Bison started off the game with a 6-0 run, fueled by kills from Dakota McKenzie, Mackenzie Lauber (Mansfield, Ohio/Madison Mansfield) and Harris. After the Saints would cut the lead in half at 9-6, Bethany went on an 11-2 run to put the game out of reach. In the run, Bethany received three kills from Harris, two kills from Lauber and a kill each from Castro, Dylana McKenzie and Kelly Becquet (Finleyville, Pa./Ringgold). Bethany would go on to win game three, 25-11, and the match, 3-0.
Offensively, the Bison hit .311 and totaled 49 kills in just the three games. Dylana McKenzie finished the game with 13 kills while Harris joined her in double figures with 10, while making just two errors. Dakota McKenzie totaled eight kills while Lauber, Lynsie Mandt (Columbus, Ohio/Worthington Kilbourne) and Castro finished out the well rounded attack, with six, six and five kills, respectively.
Lauber also finished the game with 41 assists, giving her 1,163 on the year; good for fourth on the all-time Bethany single-season assists list.
“Mackenzie has done a great job for us this season, helping us play at a quicker pace,” remarked Coach Kline of her sophomore setter. “She really gets everyone involved and helps us keep the defense on their toes by constantly getting our hitters in one-on-one situations.”
Defensively, the Bison continued their run of impressive play, especially on the back row as they totaled 54 digs. Julia Mouch (Toledo, Ohio/Sylvania Southview) led the way with 18 while Mandt finished with nine. Haley Santymire (Clifton, Va./Centreville) totaled eight digs while Becquet notched seven. The team also finished with eight total blocks, led by Harris’ one solo, and five assisted blocks.
“The biggest difference between our team this year and one from years past, is that our defense, especially on the back row, might be the best it has ever been,” commented Coach Kline. “Defense is what everything else is built on. Any time you have as solid of a defense as we have, you are never out of a game.”
With the victory, the Bison have clinched home-court advantage for the PAC playoffs which will begin next week. The team will also have the overall, number-one seed; meaning that they will get a first-round bye in the PAC Championship Tournament.
“Home court advantage is huge for us,” remarked Kline. “In my seven years here, we have never had a chance to host the PAC Tournament. It will be nice to get a few more games in front of our home crowd and we hope it is as loud, if not louder than it was tonight.”
The Bison will finish the regular season on Saturday on the road at Geneva. In the game, Bethany will look to become the first team to go perfect in conference play in the regular season since Thomas More went 16-0 in 2010. The contest with the Golden Tornadoes is scheduled for 7 p.m.