The Spartans won the back-and-forth opening set, 27-25 to take the early advantage. The Lady Flames fired back, winning the next three sets (25-15, 25-17, 25-14) to take the match 3-1.
Sophomore Marija Zelenovic played a big role in Lee’s attack. Zelenovic drilled 18 kills to go along with four blocks. Junior Paula Martins added 14 kills, four blocks and three digs. Setting the table for the Lee offensive was Camil Martinez with 49 assists.
The SSAC Player of the Year Irene Ojukwu came in with nine kills and 12 digs. Libero Libby Peigen was the dig leader for the Lady Flames as she notched 27. Lauren Williams registered seven kills and was solid at the net with seven blocks. Freshman Nicole Sumida rounded out the attack with eight kills of her own.
The Lady Flames improve to 29-9 on the year. Missouri Baptist lost for just the fourth time this year, falling to 34-4.
The Spartans were led by Madeline Nesbit with 10 kills. Ally Krus had 31 assists for the Missouri club and Taylor Cook added seven kills and 22 digs.
Lee will continue in pool play tomorrow as it battles Lindsey Wilson College (Ky.) at 4:15 p.m. The Blue Raiders fell to No. 4 Biola (Calif.) earlier in the day.
The Lady Flames are no strangers to the Kentucky club, winning in straight sets at the annual Lee Invitational earlier in the year. The top two teams from each of the six pools will advance to a single-elimination bracket starting Nov. 30.
Opening Day Recap
The opening day of pool play at the 2012 NAIA Volleyball National Championship featured dominant performances from many of the nation's highest-rated teams. Four of the top-five squads in the final Top 25 Poll cruised to straight-set victories in Sioux City, Iowa.
Coming into the National Championship with the most wins in the NAIA, Indiana East fell in five-sets to Georgetown (Ky.), 3-2, (23-25, 25-21, 26-24, 20-25, 15-10). Stephanie Gurren dished out 28 assists for the Tigers. Concordia (Calif.) continued its undefeated season in its first game of pool play as the Eagles defeated Morningside (Iowa), 3-0, (25-10, 25-17, 25-13). Madison Ekis led the Eagles with eight kills while Jenee Henderson passed out 16 assists.
No. 2 Texas at Brownsville won its seventh-straight match as the Scorpions defeated St. Francis (Ill.) 3-0, (25-14, 25-14, 25-23) in the first game of Pool B. Texas at Brownsville was led by junior Danica Markovic's 13 kills and five aces. In the second game of Pool B, College of Idaho won 3-1, (25-22, 25-16, 15-25, 25-17) over Westmont (Calif.) with Jessica Peacock leading the Lady Yotes with 13 kills.
No. 3 Columbia (Mo.) extended its winning streak to 32 matches today after defeating Carroll (Mont.) in straight sets by scores of 26-24, 25-15 and 25-21. The Cougars were led by returning NAIA All-American setter Paula Ferreira who pounded seven kills while dishing out 40 assists and logging 13 digs. In other Pool C action, the Bison of Oklahoma Baptist defeated Madonna (Mich.) 25-23, 25-18, 22-25 and 26-24. Bison Kristin Pressley posted a match-high 19 kills in the win.
Biola (Calif.) was victorious against Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) in the first match of Pool D, as the Eagles won 3-0, (25-23, 25-13, 25-17). Biola had three players in double digits for kills, led by Amy Weststeyn's 12.
Winning in a five-set thriller, Bellevue (Neb.) defeated fifth seeded Embry-Riddle (Fla.) by scores of 26-28, 25-20, 18-25, 25-11, 15-13. Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Year Jordan Broady paced the Bruin offense with 51 assists. In another five set thriller in Pool E, MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) was victorious against Hastings (Neb.), 3-2, (25-20, 25-22, 23-25, 25-15, 15-13). Linjun Ji and Molly Brewster led the Pioneers with 13 kills apiece.
For the third time this season The Master's (Calif.) and Cal State San Marcos faced off, but this match had a different outcome. The Cougars of Cal State San Marcos claimed the victory, upsetting the sixth-ranked Mustangs by scores of 25-22, 25-20 and 25-22. Taylor DeGraaf was the only player in the match to reach double figure kills with 12 for the Cougars. In the Pool F nightcap, Viterbo (Wis.) and Indiana Wesleyan proved to be evenly matched as the contest extended to four sets, with the Hawks of Viterbo coming from behind to claim the win, 25-27, 25-27, 25-23, 25-20 and 25-21. Senior Jordan Blaken had 37 digs to lead the Hawks to victory.
Pool play resumes today at 1 p.m. (CST) at the Tyson Events Center as all 24 squads return to action. The top two teams from each of the six pools will move on to single-elimination play beginning Friday.