Johannsen
GCU

LAIE, Hawaii -- No. 2-seed Grand Canyon came back from a 2-1 deficit to defeat seventh-seeded San Francisco State 3-2 on Thursday in the first round of the Division II women's volleyball tournament.

GCU (24-5) won the match by set scores of 25-20, 16-25, 18-25, 25-23, 15-6.

It was GCU’s first NCAA tournament win since 1993. The Antelopes will take on third-seed CSU San Bernardino on Friday.

“Earning a chance to play in the postseason and getting past the first round was one of our goals this season,” GCU coach Kris Naber said. “We weren’t looking ahead to the semifinals or championship. We can cross that [first-round win] off the list.”

It was GCU’s 24th win of the season, the most since winning 25 in 1999.

Thursday’s win against the Gators can be credited to a season-high 21 blocks and a school-record 13 block assists by junior Kristen Johannsen, who added a team-high nine kills and seven digs. Senior Sydney McDowell had 10 block assists to go with nine kills.

“Our block is what won the match,” Naber said. “Our girls made good adjustments. We’ve relied on our block all year long and [Thursday night] it extended our season.”

GCU got off to a great start. It had nine-point leads seven times in the first set before holding on to a 25-20 win. The momentum San Francisco State gained late in the first set carried on to the next two, as the Gators dominated play and looked well on their way to advancing to the next round.

GCU trailed by three in the fourth and blocked any chance of the Gators' advancement. Starting with a double block from McDowell and Johannsen to cut the score to 11-10, GCU scored five consecutive points. Two double blocks during the run gave the Antelopes a 13-11 lead. McDowell and Johannsen combined on another as did Caelen Hiller and Johannsen. Hiller kills wrapped up the set, giving GCU its first set-point at 24-22 and ending the game 25-23.

"We couldn't have done it without [McDowell] on offense and on defense," Naber said. "She was going to go out swinging."

It was all GCU in the fifth as Johannsen recorded her school-record block, with Hiller, to give GCU a 2-1 lead it would not surrender. Seven of its 15 fifth-set points came on blocks.

"Give [Johannsen] credit," Naber said. "All the little adjustments she has made has paid off. It will give her a ton of confidence for Friday."

Senior setter Kristen Preach had a double-double with 32 assists and 16 digs. She also had four block assists. GCU had almost as many block assists (42) as it did kills (45).  The Gators had 22 more kills (67) than the 'Lopes, but not nearly as many blocks (21-3).

Sophomore libero Mackenzie Phelps had 34 digs. Sara Bowden and Janae Gileshad each had 10.

Lanie Muys had six block assists, including four in the fifth set.