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Volleyball locked in as season winds down

Karagan Coggin and Reann Bergman block an attack in a match against Loyola. Photo by Jacob Steinberg.

With only two matches left in the regular season, the Bradley volleyball team split last weekend’s series with Missouri State. 

“We took care of business on Sunday and played really clean,” head coach Carol Price-Torok said. “On Monday, we just didn’t execute at a high-enough level.”

With an 11-5 overall record, the Braves are currently in third place in the Missouri Valley Conference standings, two games back of first place Illinois State. After starting the season with a 1-3 record, the Braves have won 10 of their last 12 games heading into the final weekend of the season. 

“We knew that Missouri State was a good team, and it wasn’t going to be easy,” sophomore middle blocker Raeann Bergman said.

The Braves swept the Bears for the first time since 1999 in Sunday’s matchup (25-17, 25-21 and 25-16). They also managed to record only their second win overall in Springfield. 

The match featured a stout defensive showing from Bradley as they held the Bears to a .132 hitting percentage on 106 swings. Sophomore libero Serena Sparks led the way defensively with 13 digs, followed by freshman Doga Topcicek with 11. 

Bradley managed to keep pace on offense, hitting at a .293 clip on 99 attempts. Junior outside hitter Hannah Thompson led the way with 14 kills on 27 attempts, followed by sophomore Karagan Coggin and freshman Abby Johnson with eight kills apiece.

“[Something] we talk about every day in the gym is working hard without the ball, so that means putting ourselves in good positions to make the little things easy, and capitalize on the small things,” Bergman said. “That’s what happened on Sunday.”

Monday featured closely contested play in three of the four sets. An 8-3 run propelled Missouri State to a 26-24 win in the first set. The Braves fell apart in the second set, as they fell 10-25 to the Bears. Bradley played sloppily in the second set, committing 11 errors on 27 attempts.

Bradley rebounded and took the third set 25-22. But after another closely contested set, the Bears took the fourth set 25-23 to split the season series. 

The Braves regressed offensively on Monday as they managed a .122 hitting percentage on 156 attempts. Thompson and Coggin paced BU with 14 and 13 kills, respectively.

“[Missouri State] made an adjustment on Monday, going into a 6-2 with three blockers across the net the whole entire time,” Price-Torok said. “We just didn’t expose their defensive game plan as much as we did on Sunday.”

Bradley will finish its regular season at home this weekend against Northern Iowa. The Braves have been dominant at Renaissance Coliseum in the pandemic-shortened season, boasting a 7-0 record on their home court.

As for Northern Iowa, they have not performed up to expectations. After being picked to win The Valley in the preseason poll, the Panthers limped into the final weekend seventh place in the standings with a 7-7 conference record and a 7-11 overall record. 

“They have really strong middles and right sides, which is something that we’ll be trying to talk about and prepare for,” Price-Torok said.

As the regular season draws to a close, it’s still business as usual for the team.

“We’re just trying to take care of business, that we can hold onto those higher seeds, and that we can put ourselves in a great place to make a run in the tournament,” Price-Torok said.

The first serve is set for 3 p.m. Saturday at Renaissance Coliseum. Sunday’s match is also scheduled for 3 p.m. Both matches can be viewed on ESPN3.

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