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Women's volleyball completes SLIAC tournament championship three-peat, headed to NCAA's

Women's volleyball completes SLIAC tournament championship three-peat, headed to NCAA's

FULTON, Mo. -- The women's volleyball team became the first program in Greenville University history to qualify for four NCAA national tournaments, and they accomplished it dramatically with a five set come-from-behind win in the SLIAC tournament championship match against No. 1 seed Westminster.

The championship match saw Greenville unable to close a 23-22 lead at the end of the first set as Westminster earned four of the final five points in the set to gain the first set victory 26-24.

Westminster took control of the second set and won 25-17, but that was the spark Greenville needed to light the fire and post dominating third, fourth, and tiebreaking final sets.

"Our entire approach this week was emphasizing that culture wins, and that we don't give up," said head coach Tom Ackerman.  "We are going to fight together and do it because we love each other.  It was easily the most impressive comeback that I've ever seen in my 21 years of coaching."

Greenville led by as many as 11 points in the third set en route to a 25-18 win.  This was followed by another 25-18 set victory, and Greenville closed the fifth set on match point with a kill from SLIAC Newcomer of the Year, First Team honoree, and All-Tournament selection Anna Finch for a 15-9 exclamation point and a ticket to the NCAA tournament.

SLIAC Player of the Year, First Team member, and Tournament MVP Allyson Mitchell finished with 17 kills in 67 attacks as she helped turn around the fortunes of the team.

"Mitch has worked tirelessly to become the player that she is," said Ackerman.  "I pulled her aside after the second set and said 'I think we've got one more bus ride in us, this isn't it for us', and she responded."

Finch posted a dominant performance with a team-leading 18 kills and no errors as she hit .600 in the final match.  She added two solo blocks and two block assists.

Second team recipient and All-Tournament team honoree Brittni Bell gave Greenville 15 kills and three block assists.

Greenville's passing was effective as Allyson Grabowski collected 24 digs, and Sarah Weiland, who was moved to the varsity team last week, added 19 digs.

The Panthers earned their trip to the finals with a 25-18, 25-14, 25-20 semifinal win against No. 3 seed Webster.

Mitchell gained 14 kills and 12 digs in the semis as Greenville rolled to the win.

Grabowski gave GU 26 digs in the match.

After the match, the all-conference teams were announced.  In addition to the award winners already listed, setter Alex Falcone was named to the third team, and Sarah Watts was a member of the All-Sportsmanship team as Greenville's selection.

The tournament championship is their third in succession and fourth in eight years (2010, 2015-17).  They were previously tied with the men's soccer program with three NCAA appearances.

The Panthers (26-7) will learn their NCAA tournament destination on Monday.