Golden Eagles Reach National Championship Final, Finish Second in Thriller
One point, just one more point!
That was the rallying cry in the Golden Eagles huddle near the end of the fourth set – leading Penn State Mont Alto 24-20 – while trying to send their USCAA Division II Volleyball Championship match to a deciding fifth set tiebreaker.
The Eagles needed that one elusive point on four different possessions only to have Mont Alto tie the match at 24-24. The never-say-die navy and gold clawed back to a 25-24 lead and needed that one point again to advance to the extra session. It is something they had already done against the Lions twice this season splitting the season series 1-1.
It didn't happen, and Kent State University at Tuscarawas ever the underdogs – they missed a bid to the tournament last season by one vote – were soon tied at 25-25 and eventually overtaken by the Lions who broke into a wild celebration winning their second straight national title 3-1 and finishing their season with a 26-8 record.
After a 2-2 tie in the opening set the Golden Eagles seized control until they held a 17-16 advantage. That's when the Lions caught up and the teams battled through four ties down the stretch until the Eagles scored three of the final four points to win the opener on a Taliyah Johnson kill 27-25.
Mont Alto was in charge from the outset of the second set grabbing a quick 4-0 lead, but KSU Tusc fought back to tie the match 12-12 thanks to a service error. That's when they took advantage of their first set lead on the strength of serving by Cayla Shrimplin and Makenzie Ailes. The Eagles held the lead at 21-20, but the defending champs claimed the last five points to win take the set 25-21.
With the exception of a 2-2 tie in the third set, the Lions ruled play building a lead of nine points and outlasting the Eagles by tallying four of the last five points to take a 25-17 victory and a 2-1 match lead.
The final set saw seven different ties and a quickened pace with the Golden Eagles facing a must-win situation and Mont Alto on the verge of winning another national title. With the tandem of Shrimplin and Ailes at the serving line again, the Eagles scraped their way to a 24-20 lead on an Addison Gordon kill again needing just that one point.
However, Mont Alto scored four consecutive points and tied the match on an attack error. A service error by the Lions breathed new life into the Golden Eagles giving them a 25-24 lead and needing that one point. Unfortunately, Mont Alto scored the final three points and won the championship on an attack error 27-25.
The Golden Eagles acquitted themselves very well and finished the season with a stellar 17-5 record capturing the hearts of everyone with just a roster of eight players and no upperclassmen.
Team members include Cayla Shrimplin, Addison Gordon, Lizzy Keller, Alivia Spaulding, Nicole Simons, Kylie Culbertson, Taliyah Johnson and Makenzie Ailes. The team was led by head coach Cortney Goodwin and assistant coach Steve Colpus.
One more point, this team also became the first-ever Kent State Tuscarawas athletic team to play in the national championship game in KSU Tuscarawas’ eight-year USCAA membership history.
To learn more about the Kent State Tuscarawas Golden Eagles Athletics, please visit www.flyhighgoldeneagles.com.