HCAC Volleyball Tournament Preview: Pioneers start journey Wednesday vs. Mount St. Joseph

volleyball team huddle

Lexington, Ky. – After a season of growth and newfound success for the Transylvania volleyball team, the Pioneers begin their trek through the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference volleyball tournament on Wednesday, November 1 against the Mount St. Joseph University Lions.

Finishing their conference season on a seven-match winning streak to finish in a three-way tie for second place in the HCAC standings, the Pioneers are enjoying their best finish in HCAC play since the 2013 season; the Pioneers' 7-2 mark in the 2017 HCAC run is the highest finish in fourth-year head coach Kyle Walton's tenure with Transylvania.

Mired in a three-way tie with Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and Bluffton University, the Pioneers secured the No. 3 seed, setting up a quarterfinal match on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. against the No. 6 seed Mount St. Joseph.

Wednesday's match pits an instant rematch for the Pioneers against Mount St. Joseph, which last faced one another the previous Wednesday, a three-set victory for the Pioneers on their senior day.

The Pioneers and Lions this Wednesday will reconvene in Lexington one week later with higher stakes; on the line is a trip to Saturday's HCAC Tournament semifinal to face conference No. 2 seed Rose-Hulman on the campus of Hanover College in Hanover, Indiana.

In this year's HCAC Tournament, the Pioneers with an overall record of 19-9 and conference record of 7-2, are pursuing a trip to the championship match, scheduled for Sunday at 1:00 p.m. in Hanover. The winner of the HCAC Conference Tournament will receive the conference's automatic qualifying bid into the 2017 NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament.

Transylvania is aiming to make its way to the conference tournament championship match for the first time since 2012. The Pioneers have played in the HCAC Championship match twice, falling in three sets to Mount St. Joseph in 2012, and losing to Mount St. Joseph in 2010 in five sets.

Entering Wednesday's quarterfinal showdown, the Pioneers are led by sophomore setter Hannah Talkers, who ranks third in conference in assists per set (9.17), fourth in hitting percentage (.307), and top-10 in digs per set (3.76) and blocks (67). In conference matches, Talkers leads all HCAC peers with 10.15 assists per set.

Starring on the front line for Transy are sophomore right side hitter Jordan Horne and freshman middle blocker Ellie Stigger. A 2016 All-HCAC First Team selection along with Talkers, Horne ranks third in the HCAC in kills and kills per set (332/3.39), and 14th in blocks (62). Stigger ranks fourth in conference in blocks (84) and boasts 2.40 kills per set.

Transylvania's defense is anchored by senior libero Marissa Coutinho, who ranks fifth in conference in digs per set (5.23), and third in total digs in conference-only matches (184). Coutinho's 33 aces on the year rank seventh in the HCAC.

Wednesday's match presents a potentially fascinating front line matchup; the Lions are led by opposite side hitter Hannah Losey, who ranks eighth in the HCAC in kills per set (2.67) and 11th in hitting percentage (.229). Losey is complemented by outside hitter Briana Looney, who leads the conference in blocks with 114 for the year and ranks top-20 in conference in kills (213).

Tickets for Wednesday's 7:00 p.m. tournament match can be purchased at the Beck Center Lobby on gameday. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for senior citizens. Admission is free for children aged 11 and under. Staff, students, and faculty who have a university ID card from an HCAC member institution are also admitted at no charge.

Wednesday's match will be streamed live on the Transy Sports Network (VIDEO LINK).

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