Nov. 20, 2010

Courtesy of Seattle Pacific Athletics

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - They rode the volleyball season farther than any Seattle Pacific team ever had. But the ride ended for the Falcons on Saturday night.

The nine kills of Lindsey Wodrich and Nikki Lowell weren't enough for 14th-ranked SPU in the NCAA Division II West Regional championship match as sixth-ranked Cal State San Bernardino, playing on its home floor, scored a three-game sweep.

Scores in Coussoulis Arena were 25-22, 25-22, 25-14. The Coyotes (28-2) advance to the Elite Eight, which starts Dec. 2 in Louisville, Ky.

The Falcons, playing in their first-ever regional final after never having even won a match in five previous trips to the NCAAs, wound up at 26-3. Their win total tied the school record for victories in a single season, matching the 1989 squad which went 26-26. This year's .897 winning percentage also was a record, beating the .889 mark of the 2006 team (Chris Johnson's second as head coach) that went 24-3. Junior outside hitter Wodrich (Richland, Wash./Richland HS), and redshirt freshman middle blocker Lowell (Claremont, Calif.) were named to the all-tournament, as were senior outside hitter Sarah Risser (Santa Barbara, Calif.) and sophomore setter Shelby Swanson (Kennewick, Wash./Kamiakin HS).

SPU, seeded second in the tournament behind San Bernardino, were coming off back-to-back five-game victories against seventh-seeded Cal State Los Angeles in Thursday's opening round and third-seeded Western Washington in Friday night's semifinals.

The Falcons gave the Coyotes all they could handle through the first two games. SPU built several three-point leads in Game 2, the last one at 14-11, before San Bernardino ran off five straight to go ahead for good.

Seattle Pacific was still within striking range in Game 3, down just 14-11. But that's when the Coyotes went on an 8-0 run, making it 22-11 and effectively putting the match out of reach.

Saturday's match was much different than last year's first-rounder between the two teams, which San Bernardino won going away, 25-13, 25-19, 25-16.

Swanson picked up another 25 assists after back-to-back career high performances of 54 and 56 in the first two regional matches. That gave her 1,122 for the season.

Nikki Lowell 2010 Nikki Lowell Lowell, having already established a single-match hitting record of .833 against Montana State Billings in September, officially became the best single-season hitter in Falcons history. She finished with a .382 average, easily beating the old record of .370 set in 1987 by Gaylene MacDonald in what was just the second season of the program.

Lowell also had a career-best night in two blocking categories on Saturday, with three solos and nine total, one better than her previous high in both.

SPU hit .131 for the match with 33 kills. Cal State San Bernardino, which came in at an eye-popping .312 mark for the season, hit .280 with 44 kills.