Bluffton, Ohio – In a matchup of two of the top three teams in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference, the Transylvania volleyball team displayed its mastery over the final three sets of a four-set victory against the Bluffton University Beavers on Sunday afternoon at the Sommer Center.
Carrying a 4-1 HCAC record into Sunday against the undefeated-in-conference Beavers, Transylvania dropped the first set before coming-from-behind to win the second set and power to victory in a 20-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-16 result.
The Pioneers received a career performance from sophomore middle blocker Ellie Stigger, who registered a career-high 21 kills on the day. Sophomore setter Hannah Talkers also had an impactful performance in a prime-time showdown with a season-high 51 assists.
Transylvania improved to 11-9 overall and 5-1 in the HCAC while Bluffton dropped to 12-11 overall and 4-1 in HCAC play. The Pioneers currently sit in sole possession of first place in the HCAC standings, a half game ahead of Rose-Hulman and Bluffton. Sunday's victory marked the fifth straight win for the Pioneers, a season-high win streak.
Bluffton began the day with promise, using a team-high 17 kills in the first set to finish up a 25-20 win.
The Pioneers' defense ramped up midway through the second set as they turned a six-point deficit into a three-point lead. Transylvania began to produce highlight digs with consistency while Bluffton's errors began piling up.
Stigger subsequently provided the offensive boost for the Pioneers on the front line with a slew of strong putaways at the net as the Pioneers transformed their deficit into a 19-16 advantage.
Sophomore outside hitter Kelsey Billingsley brought forth two kills to finish off a galvanizing second set as Transylvania tied up the match at 1-1.
Transylvania continued its newfound momentum into the third set as the Pioneers went ahead, 9-6 on the Beavers after a string of five kills by Stigger in a span of six points. The Pioneers asserted their will, producing 21 kills to four errors in the set for a set-best .340 attacking percentage.
Trailing late in the third set 22-18, Bluffton answered back to pull within one at 24-23. But it was Stigger again who delivered the knockout blow with the 25th point as Transy took a 2-1 set lead.
The fourth set found Transylvania and Bluffton tied at 9-all before Stigger ripped another three straight kills for a 12-9 upper hand. Bluffton scored to stem the tide temporarily, but Stigger and Talkers each responded with another kill to pull the Pioneers away in the fourth and final set.
Stigger's complete line displayed 21 kills, four errors, one assist, three digs, and a block. Talkers offered a balanced ledger of 51 assists, 18 digs, four blocks, and five kills.
Transylvania returns home for its next match as it welcomes HCAC opponent Franklin College to the Clive M. Beck Center in Lexington. Opening serve beteween Franklin and Transylvania is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
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