No. 4 Eastern holds off Hiram
Eagles top Terriers in five-set thriller, advance to third round
ASTON, Pa. -- Fourth-ranked Eastern rallied to defeat Hiram 25-23, 25-9, 20-25, 20-25, 15-13 on Saturday night to advance to the third round of the NCAA tournament for the sixth time in school history.
After edging the Terriers in the first set and lambasting them in the second, the Eagles could not pin the Terriers down. The Terriers battled back and controlled most of the third and fourth sets. In the fifth set, Eastern found itself backed into a corner down 11-7. Coach Mark Birtwistle called timeout and the Eagles responded with two kills by Courtney Reinhold. Hiram called a timeout to regroup and a few plays later, were only two points away from ending the Eagles' season.
Eastern libero Kelly Groff received the Hiram serve and bumped it toward Maria Horning. Horning had Katrina Pisch to her left and Courtney Reinhold to her right. Horning set the ball back and to the right to Reinhold who slammed the ball across the court and into the open back corner, tying the score at 13.
Reinhold then lined up to serve and took a deep breath. She fired a jump serve that dropped in between Hiram defenders for an ace -- her second of the night. The Eagles went up 14-13, taking the lead for the first time since the opening point of the set. The tables had turned and the Terriers were forced to use another timeout. Reinhold then served again -- this time a softer, playable ball to the middle. The ball went to Hiram's setter, Taylor Summerfield, who received it too close to the net. The official's whistle blew, signaling the violation. The Eagles earned the point and the match and lived to fight another day.
"I feel extremely proud of our team for being able to fight back," Horning said. "That's incredible that a team can stick together and play with so much heart and belief in one another. We live to play another day, but that 'nother day's going to be a pretty tough one."
Courtney Reinhold, who led Eastern with 19 kills, praised her entire team for doing their part in this comeback. Kearby Benak and Lauren Sproles also reached double digit kills with 15 and 14, respectively.
Both Kelly Groff and Courtney Reinhold finished with at least 20 digs, Groff with 26 and Reinhold with 23. Groff increased her career digs total to 1,495. Rachel Wenger had two huge solo blocks, a block assist and seven kills.
Through the five sets, Eastern outhit Hiram .261 to .160.