Up 24–20 in the fourth set of its contest with Drake in the finals of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC), Boston College volleyball looked like it was just about ready to secure the win.
In a turn of events, the Bulldogs rattled off five straight points, taking command of the set. Drake needed just one more point to send the match into the fifth set, but the Eagles put the pressure on the Bulldogs again, taking a 26–25 lead.
After two more points, the Eagles faced a 27–26 deficit, but Kate Brennan and Alayna Crabtree executed on three straight kills to defeat Drake in the NIVC.
“This has, by far, been the most enjoyable season I’ve had as a coach,” BC head coach Jason Kennedy said. “Because this is the most selfless group that I’ve ever had a chance to do it with. … To wake up and still be excited to see that group and know we’re getting better, and knowing that we’re gonna go out winning our last match, you can’t ask for much more than that as a coach. It’s a good deal.”
The Eagles (24–13, 7–11 Atlantic Coast) capped off a historic season during which they earned a program-first 24 wins with their four-set victory over Drake (30–8, 16–2 Missouri Valley) Wednesday night in Des Moines, Iowa. BC won by scores of 25–22, 21–25, 25–18, and 29–27.
The victory marked Kennedy’s 82nd career win, a program-best number. Kennedy eclipsed the all-time wins record after BC’s semifinal win over Southern Mississippi Saturday.
The set scores against Drake were 25–22, 21–25, 25–18, and 29–27.
The game’s momentum shifted toward BC early in the first set, as the Eagles went on a 9–0 run—led by three kills from Katrina Jensen—to go up 13–4.
The Bulldogs rallied back, cutting their deficit to just four points and forcing the Eagles’ first timeout. Drake got as close as 24–22 before an attack error from the Bulldogs gave BC the first-set win.
“I think my role, especially as a person with more experience and being older, and being in those situations a lot in my career, I think my role specifically was just to make sure that everyone stayed calm and had confidence in themselves,” Brennan said.
An early 10–6 BC lead put the Eagles in command to start the second set, but Drake wouldn’t stay quiet for long. The Bulldogs battled all the way back, tying the set at 14 and then taking a 23–18 lead.
BC, however, did not back down, as three straight kills from Izzy Clavenna and Crabtree brought the Eagles within two points. A Clavenna attack error gave Drake the second-set win, tying the game at a set apiece.
Jensen’s sixth kill of the night gave BC a 10–3 lead in the third set, forcing a Drake timeout. But Crabtree—after briefly exiting the third set with a bloody nose—notched her 10th and 11th kills of the night to put BC up 19–11.
Brennan converted on a kill—her seventh of the set—to give the Eagles the 2–1 set advantage over Drake. Crabtree tallied seven kills in the set.
“This is why you work for as long as you do, so that while I’m on the sidelines in this kind of environment, where they can’t really hear what I’m saying anyway, I sit there and I hope for the best,” Kennedy said. “They’re well prepared for that moment.”
For the first time in the game, the Bulldogs won the first point in a set in the fourth frame and moved out to a 6–2 fourth-set lead.
With the pivotal fourth set tied up at 20, the Eagles rallied off four straight points to find themselves just one point away from winning the NIVC . But with its back against the wall, Drake refused to go down quietly, tying the game at 24 and then taking a 25–24 lead.
The Eagles rallied off two straight points to retake the lead, but Drake converted on two consecutive kills to go up by one and hang onto the game by a thread.
But Brennan and Crabtree came in clutch when they needed to and netted three straight kills to secure BC the victory and cap off the Eagles’ historic season.
Crabtree led BC with 19 kills while adding 16 digs, and Silvia Ianeselli tallied 14 kills and 14 digs. Grace Penn added 34 assists and 10 digs in the win.
“You know, that’s what’s made us tough to beat down the stretch,” Kennedy said of his players. “There’s any one of five or six people that can lead us in kills on a given night, and there’s gonna be some days that some kids have an off day that somebody else is on, and it doesn’t matter, because, you know, somebody has their back.”