KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Oklahoma Baptist got off to a perfect start to the National Christian College Athletic Association National Tournament, sweeping both No. 6-seeded Southern Wesleyan and No. 7-seeded Cincinnati Christian on Thursday at the Kissimmee Civic Center in Kissimmee, Florida. The No. 3 seed, Oklahoma Baptist is currently tied atop Pool B with No. 2-seeded Campbellsville at 2-0.
Oklahoma Baptist got off to a hot start and kept up the pressure as they dispatched their first opponent of the day, Southern Wesleyan, in straight sets to open up the tournament.
Leading by as much as 9-5 early in the first set, the Lady Bison eventually saw their lead shrink to 11-10 before scores by Kynnedy Myers and Nicole Fleitman gave OBU some breathing room. A string of six straight points for the Warriors soon after was eventually broken up by a Fleitman score to make it 15-19. Sierra VeraCruz held serve as OBU rattled off the next 10 points, with the senior libero clinching the set, 25-19, with an ace.
Another flurry of points proved the difference in the second set as Rachel Richie’s pair of kills bookmarked a block by herself and Sophia Couto and a Myers ace. Mounting an 18-12 advantage following kills by Shekinah Sharpe, Cadyn Laing and VeraCruz, the Lady Bison put the match out of reach. Just like in the first set, a service ace clinched for OBU, 25-15, this time courtesy of Rachel Richie.
The third set opened up on a 3-0 run by Oklahoma Baptist, and they’d eventually push the lead to 13-6 midway through the final set of action thanks to combo block by Couto and Myers. Though Couto laid down a kill to bring the set to match point, the Warriors fought off the decisive blow three times. Couto finished what she started on OBU’s fourth try to seal the win, hammering down a score off the feed from Hayden Blair for a 25-18 win in the set and a 3-0 match win.
The Lady Bison picked up where they left off against Southern Wesleyan when they faced Cincinnati Christian in the nightcap of the opening day of the tournament, claiming their second straight-sets victory of the day.
Despite gifting the Eagles the first two points of the first set, OBU eventually jumped out to a 10-5 lead following an ace by Blair. Another five point run, including a kill by Laing off the dish from Adonica Wright, pushed the opening set to 15-6 in favor of the Lady Bison. As was the trend of the day, Laing secured a service ace en route to a 25-18 win in the opening frame.
Though the squads traded points to open the second set, it was again Oklahoma Baptist who capitalized to create a gap, this time off a kill by Madyson Hillis. That sparked a four-point run that gave OBU an 11-5 lead. A few flurries of points later, and the Lady Bison would find themselves up 21-14. The Eagles claimed the next two points, but OBU rallied to rip off another four consecutive points for a 25-16 set win and a 2-0 lead.
Cincinnati Christian refused to go quietly in the third set, keeping pace with the Lady Bison, and even taking a brief lead, 16-17, until Hillis triggered a run that gave Oklahoma Baptist a 20-17 advantage. Down the stretch the teams continued to trade points, but it was the Lady Bison who reach match point following a kill by Fleitman and an attacking error by the Eagles’ Mallory Morris. The Eagles fought off defeat twice, but Hillis found the soft spot in CCU’s defense to lay down the decisive kill, 25-22, for the squad’s second 3-0 win of the day.
Fleitman paced the team with 22 kills on the day while hitting .378, while Laing and Richie had 15 and 11 kills apiece. Myers handed out 53 assists over six sets, helped by Blair with 22. On the defensive end, VeraCruz continued her dominant postseason with 52 digs, while Sharpe posted 29. Laing had a team-high seven blocks.
Oklahoma Baptist (22-14) returns to the fray tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. to face Pool B co-leader Campbellsville in a match that will determine who enters the semifinals as the top team from the pool. The NCCAA National Semifinals are scheduled to begin Friday at 4:30 p.m.