MARION, Ind. -- Even though No. 15-ranked Indiana Wesleyan University volleyball won the first two games (25-19, 25-19) in the Mid-Central College Conference Tournament semifinal match with Grace (Ind.) College, they found a way to make the finish memorable.
Grace (27-10) gathered a lead late and was on the brink of forcing a fourth game as the visitors led 23-19. But Indiana Wesleyan stormed back with the next five points to force a match point at 24-23. Grace answered with the next two points to force a game point at 25-24, but Indiana Wesleyan would not be denied.
Following two straight points for the Wildcats to force a second match point opportunity, senior libero Kelsey Masuda served an ace to clinch game three 27-25 and send IWU into the MCC Tournament Finals.
"The most elated moment ever," said Indiana Wesleyan head coach Candace Moats about the come from behind win in game three. "To come back with a team that is that good, this is a very good team with a lot of things for it, to have that mental toughness and that desire to go after it and get it, for me showed incredible character. Poise and character."
Indiana Wesleyan (33-4) got to that point by the offense of senior outside hitter Peyton Thompson and the IWU defensive approach.
Thompson, the reigning NAIA National Player of the Week, tallied a match-high 17 kills with a .389 hitting percentage. She also added one solo block and one block assist.
"Even though they are keying on Peyton, she's on a mission right now," said Moats. "She wants to be an All-American and her team is helping her do that. She's determined and this is it for her. She graduates in December and she's on a ride. I think Peyton has just found so much more meaning to this than just winning a game."
Defensively, Indiana Wesleyan knew they needed to contain three Lancers at the net.
"We didn't want Enrica (Verrett), Steph (Lawson) and Dana (Johnston) to hit the ball," continued Moats. "It's tough when all three are on the front row at the same time. Who do you guard? So we tried to find patterns and we found a way to limit them tonight."
Johnston was able to produce 12 kills on a .269 hitting percentage, but Verrett and Lawson was held in check. Verrett was held to eight kills with six errors and Lawson, their kills leader on the season, was kept to three kills and a negative hitting percentage.
Indiana Wesleyan has now won 15 straight matches and 27 of their last 28 overall.
The victory sets up a MCC Tournament championship match with cross-county rival, No. 14-ranked Taylor (Ind.) University. The match will be held at 7 p.m. on Saturday, November 12 in Upland, Indiana.
"Can't wait. We're going to be so ready," stated Moats. "Pressure is on them. Even though we won (last Friday), the pressure is going to be on them. That's what is going to be really fun. We're just going after it."
The first 100 Indiana Wesleyan students to attend the match in Upland will receive free admission, courtesy of the Indiana Wesleyan athletic department.