Coach Spooner’s main point of emphasis before the final match of the National Tournament was to end as a team. “I’ve seen to much discouragement and negative season endings over the years that I just wanted the ladies to focus on leaving it all out on the floor, believing in each other and ending as a unified team.” Having lost to the #2 seed Nebraska Christian College, and the host school Southwestern Christian University the day before put the Tigers in a must win situation to advance to the semi finals. “This year’s tournament didn’t have a quarterfinal round like most other national tournaments so we had to beat Calvary Bible, the #3 seed, three straight sets to qualify for the semi’s.” said Coach Spooner.
The first match of the tournament was at 9:00AM Thursday against the #2 seed Nebraska Christian. “We had some van trouble and got into the hotel about 12:30AM, then up and gone by 7:30.” said Coach Spooner. The Tigers played well, especially in the second set, losing 27-25. They eventually lost 3-0. However that night, the Tigers had a much better shot at getting their first National Tournament win in 14 years. Playing an inspired host school the Tigers battled through 5 sets, eventually losing 15-9 in the fifth. “That was definitely a heart breaking loss. We were the better team just not that night. They don’t play orthodox volleyball with regular attacks and we had a hard time adjusting to the off speed hits, tips and roll shots.” Coach Spooner also brought up something that he got tired of hearing. “After the match we were told that was the best Southwestern has played all year. We heard that a lot this year. Yet, we need to step up our level of focus and learn how to finish respecting who we are not what the other team is doing. That is my responsibility as coach and I felt like I let the team down in that regard.”
Then comes Friday and facing #3 Calvary Bible College. “We knew they had a powerful middle hitter and played excellent defense. It was basically strength vs strength. We matched Joee up with their hitter, Naomi and Tabitha in the back row and just slugged it out.” After losing the first set 25-14, Coach Spooner was a little concerned how the team would respond. “We knew we couldn’t qualify losing that first set, but we still were a team playing now for a higher goal. Respect of ourselves and what God expects from each of us-our very best.” And the Tigers decided that meant playing perhaps their best match of the season. Winning the second set 26-24 gave even more momentum going into the third.
“This was one of most exciting times coaching I can remember. I was so proud of the way the team responded amidst disappointment and just played for each other and the glory of God’s gift.” Coach Spooner noted the energy and focus among the team, especially from the only senior Amanda Wall. “Amanda led by example this year in attitude and effort. She played her very best and got everything she had out of her abilities.” The third set was the highest scoring set of the year with the Tigers winning 33-31. “That is how volleyball is meant to be played. Back and forth with great defense on both sides.”
The fourth set was much the same except the Tigers lost 25-23. Then in the fifth set some of the mistakes of the past came back to haunt the Tigers as they lost 15-9. “At the end of the match I asked the ladies if we answered the question, ending as a team. It was very emotional but not with feeling like we could’ve done better. Calvary beat us and we played our best. That is all you can ask of any team.” Coach Spooner pointed out after the match. In that match alone the Tigers had three players with 10 kills or more. Both Naomi Kemper and Joee Spooner had 13, Nicole Galbiscek with 10 and Amanda Wall had 9. Naomi finished with 22 digs for the match and 54 digs for the tournament. She also finished with 27 kills. Joee Spooner had 33 kills and 11 solo blocks for the tournament. Naomi was voted to the ACCA Honorable Mention All-American Team. Joee Spooner was voted ACCA All-American First team. Laura Melton, had 63 assists for the tournament including a career high of 34 in that epic final match. Libro, Tabitha Ryan had 47 digs and with 59 serves for a 97% average.
The team had a season high of 52 kills, 41 assists and 89 digs in that last match. “The only feeling better to get would’ve been winning the national tournament. This was a good way to end the season and with such a young team hopefully all coming back, that will only increase our experience and investment to next years new recruits.” Coach Spooner also commented on the support of the Grace Men’s Soccer team. “That was some of the best support I’ve ever seen in all my years with GBC athletics. We truly appreciated Coach Dusty Buchanan’s team support and energy. I honestly believe that helped us a great deal.”