By Blake Moore
ALLIANCE — The No. 22-ranked Ohio Northern women's volleyball program captured a share of its third consecutive OAC Regular Season title Saturday afternoon, defeating the Mount Union Purple Raiders in a 3-2 thriller at the McPherson Academic and Athletic Complex in Alliance.
With the victory, ONU improves to 19-7 overall and finishes the OAC regular season with an 8-1 mark to finish tied for first in the conference standings. Northern will share the regular season conference crown with Otterbein, who also finished 8-1 against the conference circuit this year. The Polar Bears also clinch the number one seed in the OAC Tournament and home-court advantage throughout the event with the win.
Meanwhile, Mount Union falls to 22-5 overall and 5-4 in league competitions.
Junior outside hitter McKenna Jordan (Toledo/St. Ursula) highlighted an ONU quartet that each registered double-digit kills. She would finish the day with 20 kills, her second straight 20-or-more outing, on 51 total attacks for a .235 hitting percentage.
Junior All-American Chelsea Huppert (Bremen, Ind.), junior Sydney Bapst (Grove City), and reigning OAC Athlete of the Week Madi Ellis (Delphos/St. John's) added 13, 13, and 11 kills, respectively, to aid the offensive charge.
Sophomore setter Katie Wade (Battle Creek, Mich./Harper Creek) registered a team-best 57 assists and chipped in 16 digs for her 25th career double-double performance.
Defensively, junior defensive specialist Madison Broering (Saint Henry) anchored the Polar Bear backline with a team-high 20 digs.
In the tightly-contested contest, the Purple Raiders claimed an early edge over their visitors after clinching a back-and-forth first set. Ohio Northern would lead 20-19 late in the opening stanza, but Mount Union would rattle off four consecutive points to take the 23-20 advantage. The set would end 25-23 when Madelin DiBease pounded home one of her team-leading 20 kills for the Purple Raiders.
Northern would rebound to capture the second and third sets with similar 25-21 scorelines, each ending with kills from Jordan. In the second frame, two four-point runs would propel the Polar Bears to even the overall match score while ONU used a five-point stretch to rally from a 12-8 deficit early in the third.
The fourth set saw the same close-knit action as it required extra points for Mount Union to extend the match. After being deadlocked at 25-25, Marlee Peck registered two consecutive kills to send the match to a decisive fifth set.
In the final frame, ONU would be down 2-0 quickly following a Mount Union kill and a Northern attack error. However, the Polar Bears bounced back with five straight points of their own to lead 5-2. They would string together another four-point run later in the set and would claim the match with a 15-12 fifth-set victory on a Purple Raider service error.
Ohio Northern now turn their attention to the 2018 OAC Tournament, which is slated to begin next Tuesday, October 30. The Polar Bears will be the top-seeded team and will face the eight-seed in the quarterfinal round at the ONU Sports Center. A time and opponent will be announced at a later date as the OAC regular season comes to a close this weekend.