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ST. LOUIS, Mo. - Missouri Baptist had its best match in two weeks at the right time. The Spartans played fantastic against a tough Spring Hill team to advance to advance to the 2012 NAIA Volleyball National Championship Tournament final site with a 3-2 victory over Spring Hill College on Saturday afternoon.
The atmosphere was electric in the Carl and Deloris Petty Sports and Recreation Complex as both teams brought large crowds for the match. Missouri Baptist (34-3) started with the first point in the match, but it was all square at 8-8 toward the midway point of game one as Spring Hill showed why they earned their bid to the Opening Round. The Spartans, however, showed poise and strong defense. MBU setter and AMC Freshman of the Year Ally Krus ran the offense like a seasoned veteran, posting 15 assists in the set, five to junior Madeline Nesbit, leading her team to a 25-16 first set win.
The second set began in a similar fashion, but ended with a different result. Spring Hill held a slim 10-8 lead and seemed to have just enough to finish the game with the win. Ginny Hicks and Sha Sha Buchanan were big for the Badgers in the set, combining for eight kills to lead the team from Mobile, Ala., to a 25-21 win.
Missouri Baptist came out hot in the third set, taking an early five-point advantage. Spring Hill hung tough, and kept it close, but were unable to completely erase the deficit as MBU's Maddy Hammack slammed home the final point to give the team from St. Louis a 2-1 match win with a 25-20 set victory.
The fourth set was easily the best set of the match as Spring Hill went on a two point run to tie the match at 24. Missouri Baptist was up 25-24 looking for the win, but the Badgers' Buchanan posted a clutch kill to take a late 26-25 lead. Buchanan did it one more time for the final point to force the match to a tiebreak set.
The Spartans began the fifth set with a 7-2 lead, looking for the school's second consecutive berth to the National Championship Final Site. As the teams switched sides, MBU led 8-5, but the Badgers did not go away. Spring Hill cut the deficit to 7-9 as it looked to pry the match away from the home team, but Missouri Baptist was not to be denied. Molly DeClue placed a perfect serve to the back of the court for the ace to give the team from St. Louis an 11-7 lead as the Spartans won the match 3-2 with a 15-12 fifth-set victory.
For Spring Hill, Sha Sha Buchanan led the offense, posting 18 kills and a .361 attack percentage. Missouri Baptist was led by freshman Hannah Carey. The right side hitter recorded 20 kills and a .356 attack percentage. Freshman Ally Krus was also dominant in the match. The setter recorded a career-high 68 assists in the match to average an astounding 13.6 assists per set.
Missouri Baptist will head to Sioux City, Iowa for pool play at the National Championship final site next week. Pool play will begin on Tuesday and the team will await the announcement of the final six pools, due to be released by the NAIA on Sunday. Information on accommodations for fans have yet to be released.