DEFIANCE, OHIO – A 2016 theme of ending long droughts continued for Manchester University Wednesday, Nov. 2.
Already reaching the program's most wins since 2008 with several series' skids being extinguished in the regular season, Coach Bryndon Paulsen's squad added two more benchmarks at Defiance College's Karl H. Weaner Center. The Spartans' come-from-behind, four-set thriller in front of a loud and raucous crowd of Black and Gold and Yellow Jackets' fans gave MU its first conference tournament win since 2008 and first decision over Defiance since 2007.
"(It was) definitely exciting (tonight)," Paulsen said. "We felt like we had a chance to be in this situation … it all came down to execution."
"We've been talking in practices and so forth that we know we're ready to make (a tourney run)," he added. "It's time for us to show everyone else that."
The Spartans' path to a semifinal round meeting with regular season Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference champion and top-seed Hanover College Saturday, Nov. 5, dealt with balance. A quartet of players registered double-digit kills with a sophomore tandem of right side hitter Haley Duncan (Albion, Ind.) and middle hitter Hannah Tevis (Royal Center, Ind.) each striking the ball at .275 accuracy rate or higher to go with kill and dig doubles from sophomore outside hitter Farren Miller (Lebanon, Ind.) (10 kills, 17 digs) and senior outside hitter Courtney Chowning (Yorktown, Ind.) (15 kills – 17 digs).
"We've still got improvements to be made," Paulsen said in looking towards his team's Final Four appearance at Hanover's Collier Arena. "There were a lot of bright spots around the floor, but our outsides had trouble getting going as an example. We'll need to shore that and some other things up."
"I was pleased with the way Haley and Hannah stepped up (tonight)," he added. "Haley's had this type of match in her … she played fantastic in last year's quarterfinal (at Defiance). Hannah might have had one of the best nights of hitting that we've seen … she was nearly perfect."
MU, the tourney's fifth seed, faces off against the Final Four hosts at 2 p.m. in the first of two semifinals Saturday. Third-seeded Rose-Hulman and second-seeded Bluffton University of Ohio go head-to-head in the second match at approximately 5 p.m.