Women’s volleyball captures share of conference title

The No. 13-ranked Park women’s volleyball team remained perfect on Claude English Court as the Pirates beat the undefeated MidAmerica Nazarene Pioneers 3-2 to claim a share of the Heart of America Conference regular season title for the third consecutive season.

Breckon Sports Center hosted the conference-deciding matchup between the Pirates and the undefeated No. 10-ranked Pioneers on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

The Pioneers, looking to claim their first conference title since 2016, needed to beat Park to win the conference outright. To win a share of the title, MNU needed Park to not win in three straight sets. Entering the matchup with an unblemished 25-0 record, including a 3-0 win over Park in September, the Pioneers brought a large contingent of away supporters.

Park, who entered the matchup with a conference record of 17-1 and an overall record of 23-4, had to win in three straight sets in order to win the conference outright. Any other Park win would mean Park and MidAmerica Nazarene would share the title.

The Pirates overcame a four-point deficit to win the first set 25-21 before edging the Pioneers in the second set 30-28.

It looked like Park was in for a three-set sweep of the Pioneers, climbing out to a 23-19 lead in set three. With Park failing on five match points that would have clinched the conference title, MidAmerica Nazarene clawed back, making it 25-25. Failing to convert on the first two match-winning points, the Pioneers made no mistake on the third match point as they took set three 29-27, clinching a share of the conference title.

The Pioneers never trailed in set four, taking it 25-21, making it two sets a piece and forcing a championship-deciding set five.

The momentum kept swinging in favor of the Pioneers as the visitors jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in set five. A Park timeout proved vital as the Pirates regrouped and eventually came back to tie set five at 6-6. The Pirates kept going, taking an 11-8 lead.

Minutes later, Breckon Sports Center erupted after Malaina Hensley’s championship-winning kill delivered a share of the championship to Park, taking set five 15-11.

Junior outside hitter Maria Eduarda Ramos led the game with a season-high 25 kills for Park. Park served 12 aces while Hensley had a game-leading 22 digs.

Park now has a 12-game winning streak, losing just three of 39 sets during those 12 games.

The Pirates, ending the regular season as the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, will host the Benedictine Ravens on Saturday, Nov. 5 in the Heart Quarterfinal.