STEPHENVILLE — The sixth-seeded TWU Pioneers advanced to the Lone Star Conference tournament championship match for the third time in program history and first since 1997 with a 25-23, 20-25, 25-20, 22-25, 15-11 win over second-seeded Texas A&M-Commerce on Friday, led by career highs of 25 kills and 24 digs from Miri Shade and double-doubles from Shade, Makayla Mayfield and Katy Ranes.
TWU will take on host and No. 1 seed Tarleton State at 3 p.m. Saturday for the championship and an automatic berth in the South Central Regional.
The Pioneers (16-17) have made two appearances in the LSC championship match, losing in 1992 to Angelo State and in 1997 to West Texas A&M.
Against Commerce (21-10), Shade improved upon the kills high she set Thursday versus Angelo State by one and notched her 11th double-double of the season. Mayfield posted 10 kills and 14 digs in her eighth double-double of the year, and Ranes registered 42 kills and 11 digs for her ninth double-double. Erin Jones set a career high in digs with 23.
A rally by TWU in Set 1 turned a 16-10 deficit into 16-all, and a kill by Courtney Noel handed the Pioneers their first lead of the evening at 19-18. A Shade kill tied the contest at 23 and was followed by two Commerce errors.
Kills from Ranes, Noel and Shade opened Set 3, and the Pioneers held a 15-11 advantage after a block by Caroline Noel and Shade. Four straight points by TWU produced a 22-14 lead, and a pair of Commerce errors finished the set.
Back-to-back kills from Shade put the Pioneers up 4-2 in the final set, and an unsuspecting kill to the middle by Ranes had TWU ahead at 5-4. Consecutive kills by Briley Cole-Lewis and Mayfield gave the Pioneers a 7-5 advantage, and a Lion ball handling error along with a Courtney Noel kill increased the lead to 10-6. Three Pioneer attack errors dwindled the margin to 12-11, but TWU was helped by a Commerce serving error to make it 13-11. Courtney Noel put down on kill on a slide for match point, and Mayfield served up an ace for the semifinal victory.
"What a great match of toughness from our team," TWU coach Jeff Huebner said. "We made several comebacks throughout the match. Miri was phenomenal again, and our defense was terrific with Bailey [French] and [Jones] really anchoring the wings."