The Emporia State Hornets found themselves playing for the MIAA Championship Sunday as well as an NCAA playoff birth. Despite 29 points and 18 rebounds from Alli Volkens, the Hornets never led in the contest and fell 79-63 to Northwest Missouri.
“We got off to a bad start,” said Head Coach Jory Collins. “We spent all game trying to recover from that. We were able to I think get within two there late. We just made too many mistakes.”
It was all Northwest Missouri early on in the first half. The Bearcats opened up a 10-0 lead on ESU before extending it to 13 points.
ESU scored seven straight points in a run that cut the lead to six points. The Bearcats answered with four of their own before Volkens hit a turnaround with three seconds left in the half to cut the deficit to eight points.
Volkens scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds in the half, but the Hornets struggled containing Kyla Roehrig who scored 14 points and had eight rebounds.
“She’s a good player,” Volkens said. “She’s big. She’s tough to displace. When she gets the ball that close to the basket, it’s very easy to score, so she was able to produce.”
The early minutes of the second half belonged to the Hornets. Volkens came out with tenacity scoring 11 of ESU’s first 14 points in the half, helping cut the Bearcat lead to just two with 12:58 remaining in the game.
“To get it down two, that was as close as it was when it was 0-2,” Volkens said. “Obviously at that point of the game we wanted to string together some stops. We just weren’t able to do it.”
Roehrig – who would go on to win the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament award – and the Bearcats proved too much for ESU down the stretch. After pushing the lead back to double digits with 7:56 remaining, the Hornets cut the lead to seven but would not get closer.
Afterwards, Collins noted the injuries earlier in the season that had an impact on the game.
“Obviously losing those three seniors early just really took all our depth away in the post,” Collins said. “Alli V’s obviously been a monster. But she could be even more effective if I could play her five less minutes a game.”
Both Kelsey Balcom and Volkens were named to the All-Tournament Team after the game.
Volkens finished the tournament with the MIAA Tournament record in rebounds with 47 beating the previous mark by 13. She ended her career as the 14th leading scorer at ESU as well fourth in rebounds and second in blocks.
The Hornets were denied an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after the game officially ending their season.
“I’m proud of our young players,” Collins said. “They’ve hopefully grown a lot this year, they’ve learned a lot. I think they’re going to be pretty good for the next few years. As disappointed as I am that we’re done… I’m just as excited about what’s coming for us in the next few years.”