Braves clinch postseason appearance

Senior Erica Haslag tips the ball over a pair of Loyola blockers earlier this season. Photo via Scout Archives.

The Bradley volleyball team was unable to take down conference leader Northern Iowa last weekend but defeated Drake to clinch their first MVC postseason appearance since 2013.

Despite losing to UNI in three sets (22-25, 19-25, 23-25), it was not a blow-out loss for the Braves.

The first set saw eight ties and three lead changes, and no team led by more than four points. After finding themselves in an 18-9 hole in the second set, the Braves came back to make it a two-point contest at 21-19 before the Panthers put away the set. The third set was a back and forth battle featuring nine ties before UNI completed the sweep.

“There was a few times we could’ve capitalized on things … and that was kind of the downfall,” head coach Carol Price-Torok said. “Against a team like [UNI], when you put yourself in those situations it’s kind of anyone’s game. We played really, really well. We just need to cut down on those unforced errors, especially when the game is tight.”

The loss halted the Braves home win streak at 12 games, which is the longest home win streak in program history. It was their first loss at the Renaissance Coliseum since Nov. 17, 2017.

Senior Erica Haslag led Bradley with 16 kills. Freshman Hannah Thompson turned in her sixth straight double-double with 10 kills and 10 digs. Sophomore transfer Sara Maddox added five kills.

“It was a tough one for us.” Haslag said. “We’re so comfortable at home, so this one kind of took us for a loop. It’s those hard fought matches that really teach you how to come together as a team, and I think that’s what we’ve done this past week.”

The Braves bounced back from their Friday night loss with a Saturday evening victory over Drake. The four-set win (20-25, 22-25, 25-16, 26-24) is the Braves 20th of the season. It is the first time Bradley has reached the 20-win plateau since 2001, when the team finished 24-8.

Senior libero Yavianliz Rosado posted a school record 42 digs in the win, which breaks the previous record of 38, set by Briony Hammet in 2005.

Haslag tallied 20 kills, followed by Maddox and junior Kathryn Graf, who both had eight. Thompson fell short of her seventh consecutive double-double but finished with seven kills and 23 digs.

The victory guarantees Bradley a spot in the six-team tournament for the MVC championship, which will take place Nov. 22-24 in Springfield, Missouri. In their last postseason appearance, the Braves lost in the first round to SIU.

Haslag said the program has come a long way since she arrived on the Hilltop in 2015.

“It hasn’t happened in a long time where [a team] finishes last in the conference and then already secures the third bid to the tournament [the next season], which is a really crazy thing that I’m so glad I get to be a part of it,” Haslag said. “I’m really glad that it’s my senior year so I get to go out on a high note for the program and helped partake in it turning around.”

“We checked something off our to-do list,” Price-Torok said. “We want to have a chance to get an NCAA bid or an NIVCA bid. That’s something that’s important and something we’re striving for.”

The team will hit the road for the final time in the regular season this weekend, as they take on Valparaiso tonight and will head to Loyola to battle the Ramblers on Saturday.

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