KISSIMMEE, Fla. – The Maranatha Crusaders’ bid for a National Championship came up short against the reigning national champs, Clearwater Christian, in a 3-1 loss on Saturday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Maranatha had defeated Kentucky Christian 3-1, and Clearwater swept Lincoln Christian for the much anticipated matchup between the #1 and #2 seeds.
After losing set one, 25-19 to Clearwater, Maranatha responded with a 25-20 win on the hitting of senior Torey DeLozier (Watertown, Wis.), and junior Laci Peterson (Chillicothe, Ill.).
In set three, Maranatha had a 10-4 lead, but Clearwater powered their way back to an 11-11 tie on a 7-1 run, and pulled ahead 13-11. Peterson stopped the bleeding by tying the game at 14, but Clearwater went ahead 19-17, and never looked back, winning 25-20.
The fourth set saw an 8-8 tie, before Clearwater built a 17-12 lead. Peterson once again carried the team to within three, but not in time to avoid a 25-21 defeat.
In the match, DeLozier finished with 23 kills, 21 digs and a block while Peterson recorded 19 kills. Senior libero Hallie Sheley (Watertown, Wis.) finished with 29 digs, while senior setter Erin Jochum (Watertown, Wis.) notched 26 assists.
Peterson and DeLozier were named to the All-Tournament Team and were honored as First Team All-Americans, and DeLozier was named the Tournament MVP and National Player of the Year.
Clearwater won its seventh straight championship, and 12th overall, while Maranatha made its first appearance since the 1994 championship.
For the Crusaders, 2012 marks the seventh championship appearance, the last coming in their 1994 title.
It also means the team loses seniors; Torey DeLozier, Hallie Sheley, Erin Jochum and Sadie Joutras after a strong 24-5 season, and a Region Crown.