What an amazing ride for the Bluffton women’s volleyball team!
When Coach Steve Yarnell took over the reins of the Bluffton program in 2004, his goal was to contend for the HCAC championship in five years. Last year, one year ahead of schedule, his team went to the HCAC tourney where they lost to Mount St. Joseph 3-0 in the semi-finals.
Then came 2009. A perfect 8-0 conference regular season record. Hosting the HCAC post-season NCAA qualifier tournament over the weekend. Let me just say - Founders was rocking! Once again the Beavers met MSJ in the post-season tournament, this time in the finals.
The ladies looked and played NERVOUS. Could it be that a pre-game pep-talk from Coach Clarence Vaughn and his two Super Bowl rings added to their anxiety? Or did they start thinking about actually playing perennial HCAC volleyball powerhouse Mount in the finals?
Either way, Mount won the first two games rather decisively. Then in the middle of the third game when Bluffton’s women were down and the crowd was deflated, something weird happened with the scoreboard. Bluffton was up by either one or two, then the score on the board changed several times with the action stopped. There was conversation at the scorer’s table with coaches and officials. I heard someone who might know more about volleyball than I say there was a set from the back row. Whatever that means. The scoreboard showed us tied at 8 then tied at 6. It was really bizarre.
All I do know, is that the crowd got back into it the game at this point. And something clicked with the Beavers. They started playing relaxed and having fun on the court. And wouldn’t you know it – they took the final three games to win the tourney.
And the season’s not over yet! The winner of the HCAC tourney has an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III tournament. Bluffton will be playing Ohio Northern University, Thursday at Hope College in Holland, Mich., in the first round of the NCAA regional playoffs. Earlier this season, ONU handed us our only loss in Founders in the past 20 home games.
Bluffton competed in the NCAA regional playoffs three times 1994-97 and six times in the NAIA playoffs 1982-90. Hmmm. Bluffton is a pretty young team. Could we be on the verge of another Bluffton volleyball dynasty?
No pressure though! Ladies – you just keep having fun on the court and take us along for the ride!