CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa -- The Lady Buffs of West Texas A&M used a 12-kill performance by sophomore middle blocker Lexi Davis to advance to the national semifinals as they swept the East Region champion Pioneers of LIU-Post (25-22, 25-17, 25-15) during the NCAA Division II national quarterfinals at the US Cellular Center on Thursday afternoon. The Lady Buffs move to 35-3 overall on the season while the Pioneers end their campaign at 25-10.
"You could tell the first set that [LIU Post] came out swinging and I'm proud of our team for responding with a win," WT head coach Jason Skoch said. "I thought our middles really played well and calmed down the rest of team early, it only gets tougher from here. I think the players that were here last year in the loss fought to try and change the outcome and we played well."
The win marks the 29th consecutive victory for the Lady Buffs dating back to a four-set loss to Florida Southern during the Colorado Premiere on Sept. 14. It also gives WT at least 35 wins in a season for the 10th time in program history. The victory also moves WT to its seventh national semifinal in program history where it has wom three national championships (1991, '92, '97) and a runner-up finish (2009).
The opening set saw the teams come out swinging as they used the opening points to get a feel for the Sport Court playing surface and the arena. A Pioneer attack error gave WT the 5-4 lead and sent Lexi Davis to the service line as it sparked a Lady Buffs run highlighted by a service ace for the 8-4 lead. The Pioneers continued their struggles early from the service line as WT capitalized to stretch its lead to 15-9.
LIU Post responded as it cut the WT lead to 15-13 with a kill off of a touch at the net before a block by Laura Iwuchukwu and Kameryn Hayes sent Hayes to the service line up 16-13. The Pioneers battled back to tie the match at 17-17 before a Lauren Bevan cross-court kill was followed by a Davis kill on the dump play for the 19-17 lead.
The teams traded points before Davis connected on the slide play for a kill at 21-19 followed by a Halie Harton kill in the deep corner. Post responded with a kill to make it 22-20 followed by a back row attacker call on WT and a Lady Buff attack error to tie the match at 22-22. Post committed a setting error followed by a Davis service ace to force a Pioneer timeout with the Lady Buffs leading 24-22. Davis stepped to the service line following the break as the Pioneers saw a Hayes solo block end the set at 25-22.
The second set saw the teams trade the first four points before the Pioneers registered three in a row to force an early Lady Buff timeout with Post leading 5-2. WT battled back to cut the Pioneer lead to 6-5 following a battle that Davis won at the net but Post registered back-to-back points for the 8-5 lead. Another Davis kill on the slide play sparked a WT run that was highlighted by a Harton kill on an over ball followed by back-to-back Pioneer setting errors and another Iwuchukwu block to force a Pioneers timeout with WT leading 12-9.
The Lady Buffs continued their run following the timeout as Hayes registered three consecutive service aces to run the WT lead to 18-9. Post answered with three consecutive points as it capitalized on a pair of WT attack errors before Iwuchukwu connected on the slide play at 19-12.
The teams traded blows before a pair of Bevan attacks forced Post's second timeout with the Lady Buffs leading 23-14. The Pioneers answered with a pair of points after the break before a Hayes/Davis block on the outside forced set point. WT committed a service error followed by a Harton kill to give WT the 25-17 win.
The teams traded the opening four points of the third set before Iwuchukwu registered a solo block for the 3-2 lead. The teams continued to trade blows before a Pioneer service ace on the back line gave Post the 5-4 lead. Iwuchukwu and Davis connected on back-to-back slide plays followed by a Pioneers attack error as WT held the 7-5 lead. Davis connected on another kill in the middle followed by a Hayes service ace and another huge Davis kill to force a Pioneers timeout at 11-7.
Golden connected on the dump play following the timeout as WT continued to roll. The Lady Buffs stretched their lead to 17-10 as Iwuchukwu connected on the slide play followed by a Pioneers attack error and a Bevan kill to force the final timeout by LIU Post at 19-10. The Pioneers wouldn't go down without a fight as they cut the WT lead to 22-15 lead before a Davis kill on the slide followed by a Pioneers attack error and a block by Harton/Davis ended the match at 25-15.
The Lady Buffs were led by Davis with 12 kills (12-of-21) to hit .476 on the afternoon while Bevan tallied 11 kills followed by Iwuchukwu with nine and Harton with six. Hayes led all players with 30 assists in the match while Hayes and Harton tied for the team lead with nine digs while Kyli Schulz tallied eight.
WT hit .317 as a team (43-of-104) with 10 attack errors, 39 assists, six service aces and 10.0 total blocks on the afternoon while the Pioneers hit just .152 (33-of-105) with 17 attack errors, 31 assists, 50 digs and just 4.0 blocks in the match.
The Pioneers were led by Makamae Namahoe with 10 kills followed by Heather Adams with seven and Melissa Hansen with five, Lulu Centro dished out a team-high 28 assists on the afternoon while Rachel Ringor led all players with 20 digs while Namahoe with 11 for the double-double.
The Lady Buffs advance to Friday's national semifinal match (6 p.m.) to face-off with the winner of BYU-Hawaii and Ferris State.