THE TURNING POINT: For the second time in 2016, down 2-0 after two sets, Ashland rallied to win three straight sets to advance to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship match.
STAT OF THE DAY: Eagle senior right-side hitter Alli Cudworth became the third player in program history, and the second this season, to compile 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs.
On Oct. 14, Ashland University's volleyball team's 2016 fortunes began to turn around with a 3-2 win over Bellarmine after losing the first two sets.
A little more than a month later, on Saturday (Nov. 19) night, the No. 3-seeded Eagles advanced to the 2016 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship match in the same fashion, 3-2 (23-25, 30-32, 25-23, 25-19, 15-12), over No. 7 seed Lake Erie at Ferris State.
"This team continues to find ways to win even when the odds aren't always in our favor," said Ashland head coach Cass Dixon. "Very proud of how they kept fighting. It was a very intense match."
Ashland is 23-9 overall and has won 13 of its last 14 matches, while the Storm is 19-16.
In addition to the victory, there was some Eagle history made, as well. Senior right-side hitter Alli Cudworth became the third player in Ashland history, and the second this season, to rack up 1,000 career kills and 1,000 career digs. Cudworth needed 19 digs, and she got 20, to go with 11 kills and three block assists.
Ashland ran out to a 5-0 lead in the first set, but lost when, with the score tied at 23, the Storm scored the set's final two points.
The second set saw ties at 24-all, 25-all, 26-all, 27-all, 28-all, 29-all and 30-all before Lake Erie once again scored two in a row to take a 2-0 lead.
"Lake Erie played well and we got caught off-guard," Dixon said. "We found it hard to get in a real rhythm the first two sets, but did a really good job of still keeping ourselves in the match."
Ashland started the comeback in the third set at a 21-21 tie, scoring four of the final six points to get on the board. The Eagles then reeled off a 12-3 lead in set No. 4 en route to forcing a deciding set.
In winning the fifth and final set, Ashland moves to 9-3 this season in five-set matches, including winning the last six such contests.
"Going into set 4, we did a great job with creating some momentum, and that helped, too," said Dixon. "It carried us through the match. Had some fantastic play defensively that kept us in the match."
Freshman outside hitter Shelby Woycik set a new career high with 25 kills while hitting .354, and freshman middle blocker Sophi Cudworth set a new single-match high with 13 kills to go with five block assists. Senior outside hitter Casey Clark posted 11 kills and 15 digs for a double-double, while sophomore middle blocker Reanne Neal added 10 kills, four service aces and four total blocks.
UP NEXT: The 2016 GLIAC Tournament championship match on Sunday (Nov. 20) at 3 p.m. against host Ferris State (27-5). Ashland's only GLIAC Tournament title came in 2006. It is the Eagles' first GLIAC Tournament title match appearance since 2013.