Columbia College volleyball got the best of the Park University Pirates in the AMC Championship match three weeks ago. It was Parkís first loss of the season. This time, Park returned the favor.
Park won the 2018 NAIA Volleyball Championship on Saturday night with a five-set victory over the Cougars.
Columbia College made a statement from the get-go in erasing an early deficit and taking the first set. Park held a 12-7 lead before the Cougars went on a 9-2 run to take a 16-14 lead. They held that lead for the remainder of the set and won it 25-19.
Park came out of the break on fire and quickly found themselves holding a 14-2 advantage. The Cougars finally started to settle in but it was far too late. Park evened the match by taking the set 25-15.
Columbia College used those late second set adjustments to break out to a 6-2 lead in the third set. Park trimmed the deficit to as small as 12-9 before the Cougars went on a 12-5 run. The Pirates rattled off three straight points on the Cougarsí set point, but Columbia College closed it at 25-17.
The turning point came about midway through the fourth set. Columbia College held a 12-8 lead and the Pirates put together a 10-2 run to take the lead at 18-14. The Cougars refused to go away, but never trimmed the lead to any less than three, and Park earned a 25-20 victory.
In the fifth and deciding set, Park grabbed an early 7-3 advantage, and it was good enough to never allow Columbia to fully recover. The Cougars managed to fight back and reach four ties at 9, 10, 13, and 14, but they could never grab a lead. Park closed the set at 16-14 to win the national title.
The Cougars had an unconventional route to get to the national finals. After losing their opening match of pool play to Aquinas, they racked together wins over Vanguard and Midland to earn a one-set tiebreaker with Aquinas, which they won.
Twelve hours after that tiebreaker, they beat Hastings, who won it all in 2016, to advance to the quarterfinals. They defeated Viterbo in the quarterfinals.
The Cougars then defeated Dordt, who played in the national championship match the last two years, in the semifinals before falling to Park in the finals.
Columbia College finishes the season at 42-5.
Recent history is on the side of the Cougars. Parkís last national volleyball title came in 2014. One year later, the title went to Columbia College.
Supervising editor is Seth Bodine.