Yes, technically there was "nothing" to play for. Regardless of the outcome of tonight's Menlo-Holy Names match, the Hawks could stamp their ticket to the NAIA National Tournament by virtue of their 9-0 conference record coming into the tilt. So yes, "nothing" to play for, but tell that to the standing room only crowd inside Haynes-Prim. Tell that to the Lady Oaks who would have loved nothing more than to take out their conference nemesis, but most importantly tell that to the five Menlo seniors playing in their final match of their collegiate careers.
The Pavilion was rocking tonight as the Lady Oaks came out with a great deal of passion and intensity in the first set with the score shifting back and forth throughout. Late in the set, a Holy Names run doomed Menlo as the Hawks won it by a final of 25-22.
Holy Names controlled the second set as the Oaks were never really able to get within striking distance as the three headed monster of HNU's Samantha Miller, Ashley Nickell, and Rachel Vartanian led the Hawks to a 25-16 set two victory to go up two sets to none. The terrific trio each had double digit kills with Miller paving the way with a game high 14.
Now with Menlo staring at the possibility of their final set in 2011, the two teams engaged in a thrilling third frame. Back and forth was once again the theme of the set with Holy Names one point away from the match, leading 24-21. Menlo's backs were against the wall, but they refused to quit. Three straight points knotted the score at 24-24 as the Oaks gained a new life. Unfortunately for the team and their fans, Menlo dropped the next two as Holy Names took the set and match by a final of 26-24.
"I'm proud of my team tonight," commented Lady Oaks senior Briana Moreno who played her final match of her collegiate career. "We played really hard and believed that we could do anything."
Fellow senior Amanda Sutter, who finished with a team high eight kills, called the post-game feeling, "bittersweet." "It was definitely a great year," claimed Sutter. "I wouldn't have wanted to finish it with any other group of girls. I'm proud to play here for five years and want to thank the entire coaching staff as well as the Inwalles for all their support."
The Oaks wrap up 2011 with an overall record of 11-12 and a California Pacific Conference mark of 7-3.