Oklahoma Baptist

Oklahoma Baptist celebrates its first Great American Conference volleyball title.

HOT SPRINGS -- Oklahoma Baptist captured its first Great American Conference volleyball championship on Saturday, as the Bison ended Harding’s reign as champions with a three-set victory on Saturday from the Bank OZK Arena.

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The Oklahoma Baptist Bison (28-5) recovered from a slow start to take the opening set, 25-21. The Harding Bisons (21-11) scored the first five points of the match and led by as many as seven points. Oklahoma Baptist drew even at 15-15, but did not grab its first lead until a Rachel Ritchie kill gave Oklahoma Baptist a 22-21 advantage. In total, they scored the final six points of the set.

The second set featured eight ties within first 22 points. At 11-11, Oklahoma Baptist scored eight of the next 10 points to seize control of the set. It closed it out on a 6-1 run. Hayley Daniel registered three of her four second-set kills during that run. Oklahoma Baptist produced its best attack percentage of the match in that second stanza. They hit .333 with only four errors.

In the third set, Oklahoma Baptist grabbed a quick 6-2 lead only to see Harding answer by scoring 10 of the next 15 points to grab a 12-11 lead. The lead seesawed back and forth until the 18-18 point of the set. A Taneyah Brown kill put Oklahoma Baptist in front. OBU scored three more points to extend the advantage to 22-18. Kills by Malia Leatherland and Daniel put the Bison on the brink of the title. After a sustained rally, Daniel’s kill to the back corner secured the championship.

Leatherland added Tournament MVP honors to the Player of the Year award she claimed at Wednesday’s awards banquet. She became the third straight GAC Player of the Year to also win the Tournament MVP following Arkansas Tech’s Amanda Milnick and Harding’s Zoe Hardin. She amassed a match-high 17 kills, hit .283 and added 17 digs. For the championship, she averaged 4.92 kills and 3.83 digs per set. She registered double-doubles in all three wins.

Oklahoma Baptist will learn its post-season fate on Monday evening during the selection show on NCAA.com. The top eight schools from the GAC, MIAA and Northern Sun advance to the NCAA Division II Central Region Championships.

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