In just its first year in National Christian College Athletic Association competition, the McMurry University volleyball program left its mark, capturing the NCCAA national title in convincing fashion. The War Hawks won their first ever NCCAA title by defeating Campbellsville University, 3-0, in the semi-finals before dispatching of Shorter University, 3-0, in the finals.
McMurry (25-10) came into the national tournament as the #10-seed. Going 3-1 in pool play, the War Hawks earned the #1-seed out of Pool B heading into the semi-finals.
The War Hawks started the day out strong, defeating Campbellsville University in the semi-final match. McMurry took care of the Tigers in straight sets winning by scores of 25-22, 25-17 and 25-22.
The War Hawks jumped out to an early 10-5 advantage in set one before the teams traded six points each to give McMurry the 16-11 lead. With the score at 18-15, McM used a block by Taylor Seaton, an ace by M.J. Vickers and a combined block by Seaton and Peyton Evans to put the score out of reach at 22-17. Kelsey Harkins finished off the set with back-to-back kills to give the War Hawks the 25-22 set win.
In set two, the teams played a closer set with both sides trading points until the score was tied at 8-8. McMurry then went on a 5-0 run fueled by two service aces from Evans and two key blocks by Kasi Conners to give McM the 13-8 advantage.
The lead in the set would grow to as much as 22-12, before Harkins finished off the set once again with the final kill, to give the War Hawks the 25-17 set victory, and a 2-0 lead.
In the third set, Campbellsville came out strong once again, jumping out to a 7-4 lead. Timely miscues would keep McMurry behind until an Evan's kill gave McM a 12-11 lead, which they would not relinquish. The Tigers would do their best to claw back into the contest, tying the match at 16-16 and 20-20, before a 5-2 run, capped by a Vickers' kill, gave the War Hawks the 25-22 set win, and the 3-0 sweep.
In the contest, McMurry received a boost from 10-kills apiece by Harkins and Vickers. Conners added seven in the game while Kayla Hines finished with five. Evans collected three kills to go along with her 30 assists and four service aces.
Defensively, the War Hawks benefited from a solid, all-around effort, collecting at least six digs from five different players. Vickers finished with ten, while Bailey Wilson added nine. Ayssa Garcia finished with eight digs in the game, while Evans and Ruby Jane Johnson added six each.
In the NCCAA national championship contest, the War Hawks took on Shorter University who had defeated the #1-seed, Fresno Pacific, 3-2, in the semi-finals. McMurry looked ready from the start of the game, and earned their second sweep of the day, defeating Shorter 3-0 to earn the NCCAA National Title.
In the first set against the Hawks, McM came out on fire, jumping all over Shorter in the first set. Two kills by Vickers and Evans, as well as a solo block by Conners gave McMurry the spark it needed to jump out to a 14-6 lead early. After a brief 4-0 run by Shorter cut the lead to 14-10, the War Hawks outscored the Hawks, 11-7 the rest of the way, capturing set one on a solo block by Peyton Evans, 25-17.
Set two did not get much better for Shorter University as they lead just twice in the set, with the last lead coming at 2-1. McM captured the lead on a kill by Hines and never looked back. The largest lead of the set came at 16-10 when Conners and Vickers combined for a block and the War Hawks went on to take set two, 25-19.
Set three was the most competitive of the afternoon as there were 12 ties and five lead changes. The teams traded small, two-point runs before McM used back-to-back blocks to spark a 4-0 run. With the War Hawks up, 20-16, Shorter cut the set to one point, 20-19, to force a McMurry timeout. Out of the timeout, McMurry finished off Shorter with a 5-2 run which included a solo block from Evans.
For the record, the championship-winning point came on a kill from the War Hawks lone senior, as Vickers placed the ball beautifully to end the set, 25-21, and earn their second sweep of the day.
Offensively, McMurry used a very balanced attack in the championship match, with four players collecting at least five kills. Vickers finished the day with eight. Hines totaled seven kills, while Harkins and Evans each had five. Evans also totaled 22 assists in the contest.
The defense of the War Hawks is what won the team the title, holding Shorter to just a .069 hitting percentage while collecting eight total blocks and 64 digs in just three sets. Garcia had a great game, anchoring the defense with 26 digs. Johnson finished the contest with eight digs and Wilson added seven.
For their great play in the tournament, both Vickers and Evans were named to the all-tournament team. Vickers finished the three-day event with 88 kills and 69 digs. Evans finished the tournament with exactly 200 assists, five solo and 23 assisted blocks.
McMurry finished the season with a 25-10 overall record, marking the second straight year for the program with at least 25 victories (28 in 2011). Including the regional playoffs held in Waxahachie, Texas, the War Hawks rattled off a 9-1 record to end the season.
During the ten game span, the McMurry defensive front didn't allow a single opponent to hit above .200 in a contest. The team also totaled 90.5 blocks over the course of the NCCAA playoffs.
The old adage always said that defense wins championships. In the case of the McMurry volleyball team's championship run, the saying couldn't have been more true.
Information provided by McMurry athletics department.