COLUMBIA, Mo. – Park University found itself in unfamiliar territory after the first set Saturday morning at Columbia's Southwell Complex, trailing to a team below .500, but the Pirates hit better than .300 in the second and third sets and Nada Meawad had 17 kills as the third-ranked Pirates came from behind to beat the University of Saint Francis – 23-25, 25-14, 25-17, 25-15 – to improve to 6-1.
Saint Francis (1-8) went to a pair of hot hands all morning, as Cassidy Rammel had 14 kills, and Kendra Siefring added 10 more, but Park middle Maren Mair found a rhythm at the net, getting in on seven of the Pirates' 10 blocks, while Kaci Crabtree scored twice from the service line, where Meawad had five of the Pirates' 10 service aces.
"Mistakes got us in the first set, and after that, we played a little more like we expect to play," said Park coach Mike Talamantes. "Just really flat to start the match, which can't happen. We will have to be a lot better this afternoon against (Olivet Nazarene)."
The Pirates may have become comfortable with a big, early lead against Saint Francis, up 7-2 and on a 5-0 run with a kill by Mair. The Cougars slowly chipped away and closed the gap back to three points at 13-10, using a kill by Rammel, and the set turned after Park scored its 16th point, going up 16-12 on a USF error.
From there, the Cougars rattled off the next four points to tie at 16-all, and Rammel gave the Cougars their first lead in the match with a kill at 21-20. Park had things knotted back up at 22 on a kill by Meawad, but two-straight kills for the Cougars brought about set point, and after Park closed the gap on a kill by Katherine Dudra, a service error off the hand of Crabtree gave the set to USF, 25-23.
"It definitely woke us up, losing the first set," Talamantes said. "It's not a bad thing, especially in September, to see how you'll react to something like that. I thought we responded and did what we needed to do to win a match."
Park scored eight of the first nine points in the second and eventually led 20-10, and this time, Crabtree was able to end a set on a positive note, recording an ace off of USF's Ava Kunkler to win the second, 25-14.
The Pirates only trailed twice more in the match, a pair of one-point disadvantages in the fourth, taking the third by using a pair of 5-0 runs, turning an 11-10 lead in to a 16-10 advantage before closing the set with five-straight points and a Mair kill from Corina Rodriguez to win 25-17.
Another run, this time in the fourth set, erased USF's 3-2 lead and had Park in front 7-4. Meawad later put Park up 15-8, with a kill, and Aneisha Ford's kill made it a 10-point set, 21-11, a lead the Pirates held with Meawad's match-winning kill, from Danna Gomes, who finished the match with 34 assists.
Park will see another upset-minded opponent this afternoon, at 1 p.m., when the Pirates take on Olivet Nazarene University. The Pirate Sports Network will carry the match at www.parkathletics.tv, as Olivet Nazarene looks for its first win of the day after falling in five sets to Missouri Baptist University in the morning session.