Oakland women’s volleyball clinch spot in Summit League Tournament.

After wins against IUPUI and Western Illinois, the Oakland women’s volleyball team is now heading to the Summit League tournament.  The Golden Grizzlies have qualified for the tournament for the first time in program history after coming up short in the previous two seasons.

Earlier this season, junior, Alli Kirk said, “This season is going to be highlighted by us going to the conference tournament for the first time.”  The Grizzlies made that a reality after their four-set win Friday night against IUPUI.

The players emotionally embraced each other on the court in the O’Rena after the match, realizing they had secured a spot in the tournament.

“It feels amazing to want something for so long and to finally have it and have such a great team to go with,” junior Meghan Bray said.

Head coach, Rob Beam said this achievement was “the culmination of a five-year plan to get to this level and compete for a conference championship” in his fifth season as OU head coach.

“When you finally reach something that you’ve been so close to, it’s very exciting.”  Beam said, “It’s a relief, but it’s also more than that.”

Bray had an all-around performance leading OU with 18 kills, 12 digs and one service ace.  Jenna Lange, Brittany Holbrook and Taylor Humm also provided offense as they each finished with double digit kills.  Setter, Ashley Nevelle led the team with 44 assists.  Defensively, Kirk and Humm combined for 45 digs.

“Our defense did a great job of getting the ball out to the setter so she could have some great opportunities to set us and everything just really flowed tonight,” Lange said.

The following night would mark the final home match for Lange and fellow seniors, Nevelle, Allison Bell, Lauren Milosek and Katie Horling.  On Senior Night, the Grizzlies beat Western Illinois in four sets.  Lange made her final regular season match memorable with 10 kills and a team leading six block assists.  Bell had 11 kills and one block assist.

“I really don’t think it has set in yet, probably because we still get to play next weekend,” Bell said with a smile in reference to reaching the end of her collegiate career, “Maybe it will hit me in a couple of weeks.”

Nevelle capped off her final regular season match with a team leading 29 assists.  Unlike, Lange and Bell, Nevelle began her college career at Cincinnati but transferred to OU after her freshmen season, a decision that led to much sucess.  Nevelle, in her first season at OU, set the single season team record for assists in 2009.

“It’s been so much fun, I’m so glad I chose Oakland,” Nevelle said about her experience at OU, “I love the girls, I love the coaches, everything about it.”

Horling and Milosek both joined the Grizzlies in 2010 after spending time at Grand Rapids Community College and Oakland Community College respectively.  Beam described Horling as a “superb athlete” who worked hard and could step into the middle and make the team better.  He also described Milosek as an important reserve player who could provide important points when serving.

Though Saturday night was officially Senior Night, Bray, a junior, still managed to shine with 13 kills, 24 assists and an OU record tying seven service aces.  Most of those aces came in the fourth set which the Grizzlies dominated to win the match.

The Grizzlies will enter the Summit League tournament as the fourth seed and will face top seeded North Dakota State in the semifinals Friday in Fort Wayne, Indiana.