Transylvania volleyball aims for NCAA Tournament berth as Pioneers host HCAC Tournament this weekend

Conference Tournament graphic

Lexington, Ky. – For the first time in conference history, the Transylvania volleyball team will host this weekend's 2018 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Volleyball Tournament semifinals and finals at the Clive M. Beck Center on Saturday and Sunday, November 3-4.

After winning their first outright regular-season conference title and third title overall this past Saturday, the Pioneers clinched the No. 1 seed in this week's conference tournament, which began Wednesday with a pair of games between the four lower-seeded teams in the tournament. No. 3 seed Earlham swept No. 6 seed Anderson 3-0 on Wednesday while No. 4 seed Bluffton swept No. 5 seed Hanover to advance to the HCAC semifinals.

As the No. 1 seed, the Pioneers have secured a first-round bye along with No. 2 seed Rose-Hulman which delivers both teams automatically into Saturday's semifinal round of the conference tournament on the campus of Transylvania. Saturday's semifinal doubleheader commences with Transylvania taking on Bluffton at 2:00 p.m., followed by Rose-Hulman vs. Earlham at 5:00 p.m.

The winners of Saturday's semifinal will advance to play in Sunday's conference tournament championship game at 1:00 p.m. for a shot at the conference's automatic qualifier into the 2018 NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament.

The Pioneers carry an overall record of 14-10 and 8-1 in HCAC play into the HCAC Conference Tournament. Transylvania recorded its second-ever 8-1 showing in conference play this season by reeling off eight consecutive conference victories after a conference-opening defeat at Rose-Hulman on September 29. The Pioneers have won 10 of their last 11 matches as they enter postseason play.

Transylvania aims to not only advance back to its first conference championship match appearance since the 2012 season but also to clinch its first-ever conference tournament title and NCAA tournament berth. In 2012, the Pioneers were swept by Mount St. Joseph in three sets of the conference championship match, and fell in five sets to Mount St. Joseph in five sets back in the 2010 edition of the title match.

This season, the Pioneers are led by junior setter Hannah Talkers, the conference's reigning offensive player of the year. Talkers ranks fourth in conference in assists per set (8.89) and hitting percentage (.267). The junior is second on the team in digs per set (3.00) and 14th in the HCAC. Junior right side hitter Jordan Horne is a key component of Transy's front line, leading the team in kills with 282 total and a per-set average of 3.44, which ranks third in conference. The two-time All-HCAC First team selection is 13th in the HCAC in total blocks with 51 on the year.

Sophomore middle blocker Ellie Stigger is another formidable force for the Pioneers, ranking third on the team with 2.54 kills per set. The 2017 All-HCAC First Team selection and former Freshman of the Year leads the team in blocks with 64 total and is third in the HCAC in blocks per set with 0.89.

Junior libero Abby Wills is the team's dig leader with 378 total this season and averages 4.5 digs per set. Wills's digs-per-set average stands 8th in the HCAC.

Saturday's semifinal between Transylvania and Bluffton mark the second meeting of the season between the two teams and first game played in Lexington this year. The Pioneers and Beavers last clashed on Sunday, October 14 in Bluffton, Ohio with the Pioneers winning the last three sets of a four-set match. Bluffton is led by Bethany Martini, the conference leader in kills with 366 on the year and defensive specialist Brooke Kleman, who ranks fourth in conference in digs with 5.13 per set.

Tickets to each day's sessions are $8 for adults, $5 for students ages 12-17 and seniors aged 65 and over. Free admissions is granted to children aged 11 and under and students, faculty, and staff of HCAC institutions with the provision of a university ID card.

All three games will be streamed live on the Transy Sports Network.

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