Lady Lions fall to CMU in NAIA opener

SAGU forces fifth set after trailing 0-2, closes out historic SAC championship season

SAGU Athletics
SAGU's Alexis Mealer (4) goes up for an attack during a home Sooner Athletic Conference volleyball tournament quarterfinal match against Oklahoma Panhandle State earlier this month. The Lady Lions ended their conference championship season in a 5-set loss at Central Methodist (Mo.) on Saturday.

FAYETTE, Mo. — SAGU volleyball fell in a thrilling five-set match to Central Methodist University in the NAIA National Championship Opening Round on Saturday afternoon. Their historic 2021 season ends with a 26-9 record.

During the 2021 season, the Lady Lions won the Sooner Athletic Conference Tournament for the first time in program history, and they clinched an automatic bid into the NAIA Women's Volleyball National Championship Tournament for the first time in program history.

After falling in the first two sets 25-16 and 25-16, the Lady Lions put together a complete third set as they went on an 8-0 run to make it 18-9 and eventually took the 25-22 set three win as a kill by Emma Tompkins shut the door.

In set four, SAGU continued their momentum taking 15 of first 24 points scored. The Eagles went on a 7-0 run to take the lead 19-16, but the Lady Lions responded with fight as Ava Myers and Alexis Mealer went for back-to-back kills to tie it up at 19-19. SAGU would go on to score five of the last seven points, and a kill by Myers and a block by Tompkins shut the door on the fourth set as the Lady Lions took the 28-26 set four win.

CMU came out hot in the fifth set going on a 7-1 run right out of the gate. SAGU was able to respond and cut their lead to four, but the Eagles would eventually pull away and take the 15-11 set five victory, securing the 3-2 match win.

Mealer led the SAGU offense with 13 kills and, not far behind was Myers with 12 kills. Myers also added six digs while Mealer added three total blocks. Riley Burcham anchored the Lady Lions with 36 assists and 10 digs giving her a double-double on the afternoon. Tessa Glick and Faith Marroquinn added 10 digs each as they led the SAGU backcourt while Madison Petten also added nine digs. Tompkins led the Lady Lions with six blocks and added seven kills. As a team, SAGU totaled seven service aces and only one service error.

Hank Moore, Head Volleyball Coach, said, "It was certainly a good year for our program. This group is very special. A lot of selfless people who put it together. Anytime you experience firsts, it makes you want to get back and do it again. I'm very proud of their accomplishments."

As a team, SAGU volleyball finished the 2021 season with 1,633 kills led by Mealer’s 420 kills. Burcham finished the year with 1,339 assists out of the 1,549 assists racked up by the Lady Lions. SAGU also had 2,256 digs led by Glick’s 554 digs. Finally, the Lady Lions finished the 2021 season with 253 blocks led by Tompkins’ 145 blocks.