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SIOUX CENTER, Iowa | If there is such a thing as a moral victory, the Briar Cliff volleyball team got one here Wednesday night.

The Chargers wound up on the short end of a thrilling five-set match with Dordt – the nation’s sixth-ranked NAIA team – but went toe-to-toe with the talented Defenders for the entire match.

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Briar Cliff at Dordt volleyball

Briar Cliff's Breanne Hankins bumps the ball during Briar Cliff volleyball action at Dordt College.

“They played fantastic,” Dordt Coach Chad Hanson said of the Chargers. “I’ve always known Briar Cliff to be a feisty, get after it, nothing safe on the floor, you hit it over on their side they’re going to keep it alive. I’ve always known that about them.

“On our side, we looked like we were struggling to play and that was difficult for us to work through but I’m pleased that we grew stronger as the match went. I saw great things for us in that fifth set.”

Dordt, 17-3 overall and 5-1 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, led from start to finish in winning the fifth and deciding set, 15-10. That was hardly the case the rest of the match at De Witt Gymnasium.

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Briar Cliff at Dordt volleyball

Dordt's Ema Altena defends against Briar Cliff's Emily Sanburg.

The teams traded 25-19 victories in the opening two sets before Dordt won the third, 25-20. Briar Cliff (11-4, 2-4) forced a fifth set with a convincing 25-19 triumph in Game 4.

Dordt is one of six teams from the GPAC ranked in the first in-season NAIA top 25 and was the national runner-up last season. The Defenders had a 12-match winning streak earlier this season.

Briar Cliff won its first 11 matches but has lost the last four, so the Chargers were limping a bit coming into this one. You could hardly tell that by the performance of Coach Trevor Schirman’s squad.

“It was a great match on both sides of the net,” Schirman said. “Both teams played very well tonight. It was non-stop action and great for the crowd to see. There were a couple swings, we’d go up by five points and they would battle back and it was trading points from then on out.

“I told them it hurts to lose and to let it hurt for a little bit, but compared to our last two matches, there were huge improvements. So use this loss to build on going into Concordia on Saturday and for the rest of the season. That’s a very, very good team, they’re No. 6 in the nation for a reason and we played right with them, there were a lot of positive things that came out of tonight’s match.”

Briar Cliff had its 11-match streak snapped by crosstown rival Morningside (ranked No. 24) in five-setter, but had come up empty in back-to-back 3-0 setbacks to No. 9 Midland and top-ranked and defending national champion Hastings.

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Briar Cliff at Dordt volleyball

Briar Cliff players react after scoring during volleyball action at Dordt College in Sioux Center Wednesday.

Ema Altena and Leah Kamp, a pair of outstanding junior hitters, tallied 19 and 18 kills, respectively, for the Defenders. Kamp had two along with a block to stake Dordt to a 3-0 lead in the fifth set, an advantage it never relinquished. The match’s final kill was by Ally Krommendyk, who along with Julia Lindbergh contributed nine apiece.

All-American setter Jamie Gesink was her usual self with 56 assists and 11 digs. Libero Summer Jansen paced the Defenders with 26 digs while freshman Erica Bousema added 12 and Altena 10.

Briar Cliff’s Kelsey Kanaby was all over the court with 18 digs, while Katie Berg added 12 and Brooklyn Toliver 10. Toni Beck nailed a team-high 14 kills, with Courtney Schafer chipping in 11 and Emily Sandburg 10. Schafer had two solo blocks and Kiaya Alderson one solo and six block assists.

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