With the winner of today’s match between Cedarville and Kentucky Wesleyan earning the right to host the conference tournament, the energy was high in the Callan Athletic Center. But it was the last home match of the season as the Jackets fell in five sets. Kentucky Wesleyan had defeated the Jackets in a closely contested five set match back on Oct. 12 in Owensboro, Ky.
The Jackets took the early momentum in the first set, leading by as many as six points. The Panthers continued to fight but could never regain the lead as the Jackets cruised to a 25-21 set win.
Kentucky Wesleyan responded with vigor in the second set, though, leaving the Jackets with very little chance to defend against their high-powered hitting. The Panthers went on to win the set 25-21 and go into the intermission tied at one set a piece.
“They were running a slide attack against us that was pretty successful,” head coach Doug Walters said of their intermission adjustments. “We talked about firming that block up … which we did a better job of in the third, (and that) helped us get some of the momentum back in the third set.”
The third set began neck and neck, but the Jackets slowly pulled away to win it 25-19. The momentum changed hands yet again in the fourth set. After taking the first point, the Jackets wouldn’t lead again as the Panthers went on to win 25-21.
“I think they were pretty positive,” Walters said about his team’s attitude before the fifth set. “They were ready to defend the floor. You could tell that when they (went) out there and built a big lead.”
The match and the conference regular season championship would be decided in the determining fifth set. After being down 3-5, the Jackets rattled off four straight points and forced Kentucky Wesleyan to call a timeout. The timeout did not help the Panthers, though, as the Jackets won the next two points. The Panthers made a sudden rally, winning the next four points and tying the set at nine. After being tied at 10, Kentucky Wesleyan won the next five points to win the fifth set 15-10 and the match 3-2.
“Obviously, we have a lot of work to do,” Walters said about approaching the G-MAC tournament next weekend in Owensboro. “The conference has been interesting this year. Unfortunately, we don’t get to do it here at home. You hate watching another team celebrate on your home floor, so maybe we can return the favor next weekend.”
After beginning the year dropping 11 of their first 14 games, the Jackets battled back to win 18 of their last 20, finishing the regular season with a record of 20-14 and a home record of 8-2.
Paul McMichael is a junior preseminary Bible major and a sports reporter for Cedars.