By Nathan Scharn
SIOUX FALLS, Iowa – The No. 15-ranked Sea Lions made it to the final 12 at the NAIA National Tournament before No. 7-ranked Georgetown University ended the young team’s season and PLNU’s 31-match winning streak against non-conference teams. Green and gold finished with a record of 23-12.
PLNU opened the tournament with a sweep of Menlo College in Golden Gymnasium. The team progressed to Iowa and was matched up against sister school Olivet Nazarene on Tuesday. The Sea Lions defeated the No. 12-seeded Tigers in five tight sets for a 3-2 victory (19-25, 31-29, 26-24, 23-25 and 15-13). Sophomore Tabitha Henken was unstoppable with 34 kills in the match.
Next on the schedule was the undefeated Goliath of a team, Fresno Pacific University. The Sea Lions didn’t bring their stones and slingshots Wednesday, losing in three sets (25-22, 25-12, 25-21). FPU went on to win the NAIA title for the third consecutive year.
The Sea Lions won their final match in pool play, however, defeating the St. Ambrose Bees in three sets Thursday.
But the Georgetown Tigers sent the Sea Lions home. Though the Tigers took the match in three sets, it was far from-one sided. The Sea Lions were at set-point in the second, up 24-23, when a pair of kills and a PLNU attack error gave Georgetown the three straight points it needed to make it two sets to zero. The Sea Lions never had a set-point opportunity in the third, but three kills from Tabitha Henken — the final three kills of the season for PLNU — held the Tigers at match-point twice.
Henken was named to the NAIA All-America Second Team for her performance in the tournament. Henken tallied 606 kills this season.
The volleyball squad graduates one senior, setter Kylie Morel, who could often be found sneaking in kills as a shorter-than-average outside hitter. She set for 1,051 assists and had 104 kills over the course of her senior year.