Iowa Western volleyball came into the national tournament as the No.8 seed and needed a victory over No. 1 Blinn in the quarterfinals to stay alive on Thursday night in Hutchinson, Kansas.
The Reiver defeated No. 9 Polk State (FL) earlier in the day, in a three-set sweep, 25-14, 25-20, 25-22 in the first round.
Iowa Western led Blinn in the first set, 24-20 but allowed the Buccaneers to creep back into the match. The two teams continued to trade points, but IWCC capitalized on an error to take the first set 32-30 en route to a 32-30, 25-19, 25-17 sweep.
"I feel like our girls were really motivated and ambitious that we were deserving of an at-large bid," IWCC head coach Alica Williams. "I feel like we had to kind of get here the hard way. We didn't get that automatic bid. I thought we came in kind of fiery and just showcasing who we are. I thought we executed both game plans very, very well. That was the difference I feel like."
Williams pointed to the first set of the Blinn match as a big turning point. After allowing Blinn to sneak back into the match, it seemed like the Buccaneers had the momentum.
"I think we were honestly lucky to win that first set because we kind of let it go, and they had gained some momentum," she said. "I felt like we just somehow kind of battled our way through that. I think it ended on an error, and it was like, 'Thank God that one is over.'
"... I was a little bit nervous going into the second set because I felt like they rattled off a few points at the end, and it was close. They were kind of upset that they just lost that. But, our girls came out fiery.
Cherlin Antonio led the Reivers with 43 kills on the day, 19 of which came in the quarterfinals. Dayan Malave spiked down 16 against Blinn.
Yadhira Anchante dished out 81 assists in the two matches, including 44 against the Buccaneers. She also tallied 13 digs in the second match. Duru Ozkan finished with 12 digs.
"(Cherlin and Dayan) played lights out," Williams said. "Dayan until the third set didn't ever have an error. ... She was kind of everywhere. She's just always been a gamer. That's just her personality. It was great, I knew at crunch time she was not going to be nervous. We were trying to get her the ball as much as possible.
"Cherlin has just lit it up in this tournament. ... I just feel like she's been kind of fearless and just being really aggressive. I've been trying to instill in my girls, no matter what happens just make sure you're playing aggressive and with joy. I feel like we are so playing aggressive and with joy right now."
Polk State (11-13) 14 20 22 -- 0
Iowa Western 25 25 25 -- 3
Iowa Western (31-4) 32 25 25 -- 3