The Muskingum volleyball team dropped a five-set thriller against Hope in the semifinals of the Grand Rapids, Michigan Regional on Friday evening, 3-2 (25-22, 19-25, 25-23, 21-25, 11-15).
The 14th-ranked Muskies end its outstanding season at 27-4 overall. This year marked Muskingum's best campaign since 1999 and saw the Muskies capture a share of the Ohio Athletic Conference Regular-Season Championship. Muskingum advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008 and won its first NCAA Tournament match since 1999 when the Muskies beat Wittenberg in the opening round, 3-1.
Muskingum's attack against Hope was paced by juniors Brooke Fatheree and Maddie McGee. Fatheree slammed 19 kills on 61 attempts, while McGee hit 12 spikes on 39 attempts. Juniors Brynn Guist and Erin Dickson each added eight kills. Dickson also directed the Muskie attack with 40 assists. Junior Jessica Cottle and Fatheree led the defensive effort with 22 and 18 digs, respectively. Freshman Emma Dunham led the squad with three blocks.
Hope, ranked 10th, was led by McKenna Otto, who registered a game-high 23 kills on 44 attempts. Ryan Stutz also added 20 spikes to the Flying Dutch attack. Tracy Westra and Adair Cutler set up the attack with 33 and 31 assists, respectively. Grace Pettinger led the backline with 23 digs.
In the opening set, Muskingum used a late 5-2 surge to close out the opening frame to take the early match lead. In the second set, Hope broke a 14-14 tie by outscoring the Muskies 11-5 to tie the match. Muskingum rallied from an 18-12 gap in the third set with a 13-5 outburst to claim the set and take a 2-1 lead against Hope. The fourth set was an even battle until Hope tallied four straight points to break a 19-19 tie en route to the set win. The final decisive frame tilted early in favor of the Flying Dutch when Hope opened with an 8-3 run. Hope maintained the advantage and fended off a Muskie rally to claim the Regional Semifinal win.