By Nicholas Huenefeld/Owens Sports Information
Charleston, W.V.---The No. 2 Owens Community College women's volleyball team saw its dream of a national title dashed with a 25-22, 25-17, 25-20 loss to No. 3 Lincoln Land Community College in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division II National Tournament semifinals tonight.
Despite the loss, Owens (40-5) still has the opportunity to achieve the best finish in program history at the NJCAA Division II level if they can defeat No. 4 Catawba Valley Community College tomorrow in the third/fourth place match at 3 p.m.
Lincoln Land improved to 40-8 overall with the victory. They will play No. 1 Parkland College for the second consecutive year in the national championship match. Parkland won in straight sets last year, and they haven't dropped a set so far in this year's tournament.
Tonight was the second national semifinal appearance for Owens at the NJCAA Division II level. They finished fourth in the 2012 national tournament after losing its final two matches. Overall, it was the fifth national semifinal appearance for the team, including the three semifinal appearances at the NJCAA Division III level in the late 1990s.
Tonight's match swung into Lincoln Land's favor late in the first set and remained on their side the rest of the way. Devon Heitkamp (New Bremen/New Bremen, Ohio) teamed with Christine Tylutki (Monroe/Monroe, Mich.) for a block and then hammered home a kill to give Owens a 10-6 lead and force a Lincoln Land timeout early on.
A little later, a net violation was called on Lincoln Land to give Owens its largest lead at 16-11, but Lincoln Land scored six of the next seven points to knot things at 17 apiece and force an Owens timeout. Out of the break, Owens scored three straight, capped by an overpass kill from Tylutki, but Lincoln Land answered with three straight of their own to force another Owens timeout.
Lincoln Land continued to rally after the timeout and scored three more points in a row. A net violation and an ace that landed on the back line from Ashley Pleiman (Fort Loramie/Fort Loramie, Ohio) gave Owens hope and pulled them within one, but Lincoln Land smashed a kill down the middle and Owens sent an attack long to end the first set.
Early in the second set, Tyanna Smith (Bowling Green/Bowling Green, Ohio) and Heitkamp each produced kills to give Owens a 4-3 lead, but Lincoln Land took the lead with back-to-back points and never trailed again in the set. An attack error made it 9-6 and forced an Owens timeout. A kill down the middle made it 15-10 and forced another timeout.
Another kill from Smith and an attack out of bounds pulled Owens within three, but Lincoln Land responded and never led by fewer than four before taking the set by eight.
Niki Polce (Huron/New Boston, Mich.) started things off well for Owens in the third set with an ace, and Owens also got kills early in the set from Erika Angstmann (St. Marys Memorial/St. Marys, Ohio) and Smith. Owens stayed within two following a kill from Pleiman, but Lincoln Land scored three straight to force a timeout.
A right side kill from Heitkamp, a left side kill from Angstmann, and a Lincoln Land serve out of bounds pulled Owens within three on three occasions, and then a Smith kill pulled Owens within 14-13 and forced a Lincoln Land timeout.
From there, however, Lincoln Land scored six of the next seven points to take a 20-14 lead. Olivia Hermiller (Ottawa-Glandorf/Ottawa, Ohio) ended the run with a kill, but the closest Owens was able to get following that was four on two occasions before Lincoln Land won the match on a bad serve.
Throughout the match, Owens was its own worst enemy. They had six service errors, five two-hit violations, 10 attack errors and two net violations. Thus, they gave Lincoln Land 23 points throughout the match.
Owens was led by Smith, who had 11 kills while hitting .261. Angstmann and Heitkamp each chipped in six kills, while Pleiman had five. Overall, though, Owens hit .157 as a team despite getting a .364 finish from Angstmann. Tylutki (18) and Carrigan Gray (Liberty-Benton/Findlay, Ohio) (11) combined for 29 of the team's 30 assists, while Brooke Gyori (Clay/Oregon, Ohio) had a team-high 27 digs. Polce contributed 13 digs, too, and the trio of Gray, Angstmann and Tylutki each added seven. Smith led the team with a pair of blocks.