The Independent Student Newspaper of Northern Kentucky University.

Norse advance to Horizon League finals after five-set victory over Wright State

Norse now one win away from Horizon League tournament championship

November 20, 2021

The Northern Kentucky volleyball team defeated the Wright State Raiders in five sets on Saturday night to advance to the Horizon League tournament championship game for the third time in the last four seasons. 

After two regular season matches between NKU and Wright State, both of which went to five sets with each team earning a victory apiece, the rubber match between the two squads did not disappoint at a neutral site in Milwaukee.

The first set was a tightly contested one, as both the Norse and Raiders continued to trade points with several long rallies throughout the set. Going into a timeout, the Norse led 15-14, but the Raiders bounced back with three consecutive points, taking a 17-15 advantage and forcing NKU head coach Liz Hart to use a timeout.

The Norse responded out of the break, snapping off a 3-0 lead, and despite the Raiders continuing to fight back, the Norse held on for the 27-25 set win.

Senior Anna Brinkmann led the Norse with five kills in the first set, while Reilly Briggs picked up four kills and two more Norse players added three apiece.

In the second set, the Raiders put themselves in control of the match early on, and while the Norse were able to remain without just a few points throughout the set, Nyssa Baker and Sam Ott led the Raiders as they pulled away from NKU, winning the set 25-18. 

A terrific start to the third set for the Norse, including a quick 9-4 lead, gave them some early momentum, but five straight Raider points in the middle of the set gave the Raiders a 15-14 lead.

However, the Norse, as they did throughout their 19-7 regular season, did not let that adversity slow them down. Behind key contributions from sophomore Allie Siefke and redshirt junior Abby Kanakry, the Norse pushed ahead and took the set 25-22.

In the fourth set, a 6-0 scoring run by the Raiders catapulted Wright State to an early 8-5 lead, forcing an NKU timeout by Hart. However, unlike the first set, this timeout was not able to rejuvenate the Norse, as Wright State held a commanding advantage for much of the set. A late surge by the Norse drew the team to within one multiple times late in the set, but the Raiders used several key kills to come away with a 25-21 win, setting up a winner-take-all fifth set for an appearance in the Horizon League championship game.

After a 4-1 start by the Norse in the final set, Wright State answered with four consecutive points to grab the 5-4 lead. The two teams, in their 15th set of the season against one another, continued to trade points, tying at seven each, then nine, setting the scene for a dramatic ending on Saturday night. 

The Norse, led by the trio of Kanakry, Brinkmann and Briggs, locked in to finish the set, defeating the Raiders 15-10 and punching their ticket to the championship match on Sunday evening.

For the match, the Norse were led in kills by Briggs with 18, followed by Brinkmann with 15 and Kanakry with 13. Additionally, Miranda Wucherer and Katy Yopko tied with a team-leading 27 assists and Anna Burke led the way with 27 digs.

NKU advances to the Horizon League tournament championship game on Sunday against the fourth-seeded UIC Flames, who came back to beat the top-seeded Milwaukee Panthers earlier in the day on Saturday. The winner of the match will earn the Horizon League’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The match will begin at 5:00 p.m. ET (4:00 CT).

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