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Drake Falls in Five to Creighton in Senior-Night Thriller

Courtesy: Drake Athletics
Release: November 19, 2011
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Seniors Caitlin Johnson, Michelle Reidy, Emily Heffernen, Erika Price and Mikayla Sims
Courtesy: Drake Athletics

Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011

DES MOINES, Iowa – The Drake University volleyball team dropped a five-set (20-25, 16-25, 25-22, 25-20, 10-15) thriller to Creighton in what proved to be its season-finale Saturday at the Knapp Center.
With Indiana State already a 3-0 loser at Wichita State, the Bulldogs (9-23, 5-13 MVC) captured a 25-20 win in game four just as Evansville downed Bradley in Evansville, Ind. to set the stage for Drake’s entrance into the postseason. A fifth-set victory over Creighton would have punched Drake’s ticket to next week’s State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

“We just knew we had to make our small adjustments,” head coach Tony Sunga said. “We had to force them into our defense.”

The teams opened the fifth set by trading points up to a 9-9 tie. Creighton (17-13, 12-6 MVC) executed a 6-1 run behind stellar service from Julianne Mandolfo to win the fifth set, 15-10, and end Drake’s season five points short of its third-straight MVC Tournament appearance.

“It about coming out and playing hard,” Sunga said. “I think our seniors had a little bit to do with that. We couldn’t I saw leadership out there.

Four seniors, Erika Price (Littleton, Colo./Dakota Ridge), Caitlin Johnson (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore), Michelle Reidy (Dubuque, Iowa/Wahlert), Mikayla Sims (Waterloo, Iowa/East) and junior Emily Heffernen (Manchester, Iowa/West Delaware) played in their final match in Blue and White. Heffernen will graduate prior to her senior year of athletic eligibility.

“They really decided that they were playing tonight,” Sunga said. “As a group, they really led the underclassmen. I'm proud of them.”

Heffernen led Drake with 11 kills in just 20 swings for a match-high .500 hitting percentage. Johnson logged 28 assists and 20 digs for her team-best 14th double-double of the season. Johnson ended the season with 1,043 assists, the ninth-most in a single season at Drake. Additionally, Johnson’s career assist total of 2,338 ranks fourth in Drake annals. 

Sims started in game one and tallied four kills in her first appearance since Sept. 10 at Denver.

Reidy tallied eight kills and five total blocks, including four block assists. She ended her career with 387 block assists, the third-most ever by a Drake performer.
Junior Whitney Westrum (Waukee, Iowa/Waukee) closed out her junior season with 10 kills and 11 digs for her 11th double-double of the season. Westrum finished the season with a team-best 322 kills.

Price and junior Sarah Madden (Van Meter, Iowa/Adel-DeSoto-Minburn) totaled 18 digs each. Price finished the year with 398 digs – good for 10th on the single-season Drake list. Madden led the Bulldogs with 427 digs; seventh all-time.

The Bulldogs return three starters, Westrum, Madden and junior Bentley Mancini (Burnsville, Minn./Apple Valley) in 2012.

“We'll be pretty young next year, that's for sure.” Sunga said. “We'll have a good base to start with. The season is built in the spring. We'll get to work.”


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