Lexington, Ky. – The Transylvania volleyball team completed a long journey to a summit of its own on Saturday afternoon with a three-set sweep of the Manchester University Spartans to capture the 2018 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference regular-season crown.
Saturday's victory completed a patient and calculated journey back to the top of the HCAC for Transylvania, which took a share of second-place in last year's HCAC regular-season campaign and finished 4-5 just two seasons ago.
After dropping its conference opener one month ago at Rose-Hulman, the Pioneers embarked upon a captivating and efficient journey through the rest of their HCAC schedule to run the table and finish the year at 8-1. With the Engineers faltering twice in their conference slate along the way, the Pioneers held firm and captured their first outright conference title in program history.
Prior to Saturday, the Pioneers had twice won a share of the conference regular season co-championship, tying Mount St. Joseph in the 2012 season with an 8-1 record, and sharing in an improbable five-way tie for first place the season before, but on this afternoon, the Pioneers found a title to call all their own.
Led by first-year head coach Amy Barmore, who spent the last four years on the Transylvania staff as an assistant coach before taking the lead position this past February, the Pioneers completed their climb on an afternoon that felt more like a procession than a competition. The Pioneers wasted no time in taking the first set from Manchester, 25-17. In the second set, the front line took over as sophomore middle blocker Ellie Stigger began finding her spots in the Spartans' armor, coming up with blocks and kills in droves.
Junior setter Hannah Talkers facilitated consistently all afternoon as she led the Pioneers in assists and pushing Transylvania closer to victory with a 25-16 win in the second set.
The championship celebration was underway seemingly before anyone could blink as the Pioneers clinched a 25-12 third set win to put the finishing touches on a string of eight straight conference wins to close out an unforgettable regular season.
Transylvania wrapped up its regular season with a 14-10 overall record, while Manchester dropped to 7-17 overall, and 3-5 in conference play.
As HCAC conference champions, the Pioneers have earned the No. 1 seed in next week's HCAC Conference Tournament, which includes the top six team in conference. Transylvania and No. 2 seed Rose-Hulman both clinched first-round byes, which sets the Pioneers' first match next Saturday, November 3 at the Beck Center in Lexington versus the winner of the No. 5 and No. 4 seed game which takes place on Wednesday, October 31. Transylvania will square off with that winner at 2:00 p.m. next Saturday.
A full schedule of the three-round HCAC Tournament will be revealed early next week.
For more on Transylvania volleyball, follow @TransylvaniaWVB on Twitter