"Tonight was a total team effort," said AU head coach Cass Dixon.
In tonight's match Samantha Zuber tallied 15 kills, four aces, one block solo and two block assists. Maureen Johnson had 10 kills and three block assists. Casey Clark recorded a double double with 11 kills and 12 digs.
"Our middle hitters were phenomenal tonight. Casey did a good job and had key swings at big moments," said Dixon.
The Eagles and Wildcats traded points early on in the first set. After the score was tied at five the Eagles went on a 5-0 run and made the score 10-5. The Wildcats rallied to close the gap, they rebounded to make the score 13-12. However NMU fell behind as Zuber helped spark the Eagle offense with a block solo and a decisive kill allowing AU to go up 18-12. Ashland closed the set with a kill by Baley Bernthisel from Shelly DeHenning.
The Eagles came out strong and took a significant 9-1 lead in the second set. They extended their lead to 15-7 as they continued to hold a strong advantage over Northern Michigan. The score was 20-14 after Zuber found a hole in the Wildcat defense and scored the point to go up six over NMU. Northern Michigan began its comeback with a 6-0 run as it cut the lead to two. The game was tied at 23-23 after a kill from NMU's Kellisha Harley. The Wildcats won the next two points and ended the set with a 25-23 win.
Set number three began as another back-and-forth battle. Ashland was down 4-1, but quickly tied the score at 4-4. The set was even again at 10-10 after NMU attempted to block an Eagle attack, Marci Zegarac was prepared for the blocked return, which set up Kate Eckels for the kill from DeHenning. A monster kill from Clark helped AU go up 15-12 in the third set. The score was 19-14 after Zuber added another kill. Ashland ended the third set with a nine-point advantage over Northern Michigan.
The Eagles lost the first two points in set number four; but capitalized on their momentum as they received critical kills from Bernthisel, Johnson, and Zuber to make the score 8-5. The score was 10-6 after Zuber finished a point from DeHenning. The Eagles and Wildcats fought back and forth as the match progressed. DeHenning tied the score at 14-14 from a pass by Eckels. Northern Michigan called a timeout after Ashland went up 20-18. Johnson made the score 24-23. The set and match ended on a service error by NMU's Sarah Hamilton.
As a team the Eagles tallied 51 kills on 142 attempts with 20 errors. AU hit .218. Ashland recorded 66 digs, one block solo, and 10 block assists.
Ashland has made the GLIAC Tournament the past three years. This will be AU's first time in the conference championship match under Dixon.
"This is another step for us. We're proving that we're not just a strong team in the South, but a strong team in the GLIAC," said Dixon.
The head coach noted she and her team are "committed to one goal." That goal is winning the GLIAC.
Ashland will play again tomorrow as they compete in the GLIAC championship against the Grand Valley State Lakers at 4 p.m. AU is the second seed in the tournament. GVSU is the top seed and is also ranked first in the Midwest Region. The Lakers downed Northwood, 3-1 on Saturday. AU and Grand Valley State played in Ashland on Oct. 12 and the Lakers won, 3-1.