SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Ashland University volleyball team came up just short in a five-set match, 25-16, 18-25, 25-18, 17-25, 15-9, against Ferris State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday (Nov. 15) afternoon at the O'Reilly Center.
It was the second time this season the Eagles and Bulldogs were locked in a fifth set, but both times Ferris came out with the win.
"We fought really hard and we played as a team really well," said first-year head coach Kevin Foeman. "I thought we had our chances, and if we have a chance to win every match, I'm happy with it. We gave ourselves a chance. We made some mistakes at the wrong time. Ferris did a good job finishing it."
The No. 7-seed Eagles (25-7), playing in the eighth NCAA Tournament in program history, outplayed the No. 2-seed Bulldogs (27-4) in Sets 2 and 4 by out-hitting them, .302 to .054, but the Bulldogs had the advantage in the other three sets.
After dropping the first set, the Eagles rallied for a win in the second frame. AU trailed, 9-4, in that set, but rallied to score seven straight points with freshman Zoey Peck on the serve to push the Eagles ahead, 11-9. Cudworth finished with a kill to give the Eagles the win.
The second set was the only frame with a lead change. In all five sets, the team that scored first went on to win.
The teams traded wins in Sets 3 and 4 before Ashland fell behind, 6-1, in the fifth. The Eagles cut it to 7-5, but Ferris recovered to score the next three points and Ashland never got closer than four points.
"It was very even," said Foeman. "All of our losses have been kind of like that. It could go either way. Ferris doesn't lose much, they know how to win and they did it today."
Junior Shelby Woycik led the Eagles with 17 kills (.233) while freshman Erin Krupar had a double-double with 11 kills (.158) and 18 digs. Redshirt-junior Michaela Ping added 10 kills (.269) and five blocks. Cudworth had 11 kills (.310).
"I thought Zoey Peck was absolutely fantastic," said Foeman. "She's a freshman in that situation, was supposed to redshirt, I thought she set an unbelievable ball. She was just outstanding.
Our block in Sets 2 and 4 was really good. That's what we can do and it's exactly what we should do every single match, but it's easier said than done. Every person in the front blocked really well. Our defensive specialists too, Zoie Franklin stepped up and played really hard today. Bean and McKinley Smith as well."