Trailblazer volleyball advances to Region 24 Championship game after five-set thriller


VINCENNES, Ind. – The Vincennes University Trailblazer volleyball team survived the first step in defending their Region 24 crown Friday afternoon after defeating Kaskaskia College 29-27, 20-25, 14-25, 25-20, 15-8 in the NJCAA Division I Region 24 volleyball semi-finals.

Vincennes began their day in the afternoon semi-final round after the Trailblazers earned the No. 1 seed in the tournament with a 10-0 regular season Region 24 record.

The early stages of the opening set really showed how close this matchup is between VU and the No. 4 seed Blue Angels.

The two teams traded small scoring runs and side outs with neither team able to get a firm control of the match.

Vincennes found themselves trailing late with Kaskaskia serving set point four different times before the Blazers would rally back to score three unanswered points in overtime to take set one 29-27.

The Trailblazers carried this momentum into the second set, using a 6-0 scoring run to take an early four-point lead.

Kaskaskia would battle back and regain the lead at 17-16. Vincennes would again try to rally back from this late deficit but were unable to as the Blue Angels claimed set two 25-20 and evened the match a 1-1.

Kaskaskia looked to take full control of the match and completely swing the momentum in the third set after a pair of 5-0 scoring runs gave the Blue Angels the 25-14 set win and the 2-1 match lead.

With their backs against the wall the youthful Trailblazers looked to answer back in the fourth set after falling behind early again.

Vincennes erased a small three-point lead and managed to swing the momentum to their side with a 9-2 scoring run.

The Trailblazers forced a fifth set after taking the fourth set 25-20 over Kaskaskia.

In the winner-take-all fifth set, the Trailblazers were not only playing for a spot in tomorrow’s Region 24 Championship match, but also playing for an opportunity to host one of the Midwest District Tournaments next weekend.

The fifth set began as another back-and-forth battle, with Vincennes striking first with a 3-0 scoring run.

The Trailblazers would build on their lead with a late 5-0 scoring run to seal the fifth set victory over the Blue Angels 15-8 and earn their third straight trip to the Region 24 Championship game.

“We had to incorporate a couple of players into the lineup today that had not really practiced or not at all the last two weeks,” VUVB Head Coach Gary Sien said. “The other thing going into today was that we hadn’t played since last Saturday and Kaskaskia was playing their third match of the week and second of the day. Kaskaskia definitely played well in their first match of the day and overall played really well against us.”

“Even after the dire situation we put ourselves in after that third set, I always tell our players ‘I always believe in us, even if we just lose 0-25, I still think we can always comeback and win’,” Sien added. “We just need to work on cleaning up a few things for tomorrow. We missed a few serves. I think in the second set when the score was over 20, we missed around three serves and you can’t miss serves after 20 points. It’s just cleaning up things that we normally do well but just didn’t today, like serve and serve receive.”

“If you serve receive well, everything else will come along like hitting, blocking and everything else,” Sien said. “We didn’t play very well today, maybe in the fourth and fifth sets we did. But this was a real challenge to see how tough we are. At a certain point we have to ask ourselves, what are we made of, beyond just the volleyball.”

Vincennes was led offensively by a double-double performance out of freshman Paige Parlanti (Las Vegas, Nev.) who ended with 17 kills, 16 digs and four blocks.

Sophomore Malgorzata Banasiak (Gdynia, Poland) would also reach double-figure kills, ending with 10 kills on a .476 hitting percentage, three digs and one block.

Freshman Audrey Buis (Franklin, Ind.) nearly missed a double-double with nine kills, seven digs and five blocks.

Freshman Tuana Turhan (Ankara, Turkey) had a big night at the net, ending with six kills, five blocks, one ace and one dig.

Freshmen Alexis Chrappa (Effingham, Ill.) and Nisa Salis (Ankara, Turkey) each recorded two kills, with Salis adding a team-high eight blocks and one dig, while Chrappa added seven digs and two blocks.

Sophomore setters Josephine Mulligan (Saint John, Ind.) and Hannah Graber (Montgomery, Ind.) round out the VU offense with one kill each. Mulligan narrowly missed a double-double with 16 set assists, nine digs and an ace, while Graber picked up her seventh double-double of the season with 31 set assists, 11 digs, two aces and a block.

Freshman libero Morgan Netcott (Montague, Mich.) led the Blazers defensively with 20 digs and one set assist.

Sophomore Lara Gomes de Castro (Sao Paulo, Brazil) ended her night with seven digs and an ace.

“We switched around the lineup late and Hannah, who was one player who hadn’t played since we were at Mineral Area, got her in there and let her set a 5-1,” Sien said. “Having sophomore setters like her and Joie and being able to put Joie in the back row to have that option is a lineup that we haven’t used very often, but when we really need it is a lineup that we can use. I really give Hannah a lot of credit, she showed a lot of leadership out on the floor. We are such a young team, they have done really well this season, but there are some situations that they just haven’t gone through yet.”

“I thought Malgorzata played her best match in her career today,” Sien added. “She had 10 kills on 21 swings, for a pin to hit that well is phenomenal. She also brought some sophomore leadership and was really one who demanded to get some sets. The sophomores really did a nice job. Lara came in, in the sets that we lost, when she was off our whole defense was off. We challenged our defense after the third set and Lara went out and got some major digs and served tough.”

“Our two middles (Tuana and Nisa) didn’t get a lot of sets offensively and really came through in crucial points defensively with blocks,” Sien said. “At times when we are not passing well, it’s hard to get sets to our middles but they were big time for us with the blocks. In the fourth and fifth sets the blocking really took over and those two played a major part in it. At times we don’t mention those two a lot, just because they don’t get a lot of kills, but they really do a thankless job of blocking. They have really been doing that the whole year for us.”

The Trailblazers will host No. 2 John A. Logan in the NJCAA Division I Region 24 Championship match Saturday, Oct. 29 at the P.E. Complex. This match is set to begin at 1 p.m. eastern.

The Kaskaskia Blue Angels will begin the day Saturday with the Third-Place match against No. 3 Lake Land at 11 a.m. eastern.

“Believe it or not, I’m really glad we had a really tough match today,” Sien said. “I think if we had a quick three-set match, I don’t know how ready we would be for tomorrow. It’s always nice to win 3-0, but sometimes it’s great to go through something like this and show our freshman players that this is what it is like in the postseason. The atmosphere, the pressure, where every play and every point is important and you can’t take plays off. I think it was great that we had that type of challenge tonight.”

“Tomorrow is definitely going to be tough,” Sien added. “John A. Logan has been steadily improving all year. It is definitely going to be a challenge tomorrow, but anything that is worthwhile is going to be a challenge.”

The day one scores at the Region 24 tournament were No. 4 Kaskaskia over No. 5 Wabash Valley 25-15, 25-21, 25-20. No. 3 Lake Land over No. 6 Shawnee 25-8, 25-9, 25-6. No. 1 Vincennes over No. 4 Kaskaskia 29-27, 20-25, 14-25, 25-20, 15-8. No. 2 John A. Logan over No. 3 Lake Land 25-18, 25-23, 24-26, 12-25, 15-13.