INDIANOLA, Iowa – For four sets, the Simpson volleyball team's leader on the front line couldn't find a rhythm.
Then she caught fire.
Tabitha Blaser buried seven of her match-high 18 kills in the fifth set and Simpson beat Loras 3-2 (25-20, 15-25, 25-20, 15-25, 15-9) in Tuesday's home finale, keeping the Storm's Iowa Conference Tournament hopes alive.
MacKenzie McGraw added a season-high 17 kills for Simpson (11-13, 2-4 Iowa Conference), which gained a one-match lead on Loras and Luther for the sixth and final spot in the league's postseason tournament with one to play.
Blaser accounted for seven of Simpson's last 11 points, rattling off four kills in a row to give Simpson a 10-6 lead. Her sixth kill of the set made it 14-6 and she closed it out on a set from Katie Kieffer, who had 53 assists.
"She was the spark that we absolutely needed," head coach Lana Smith said. "Tab came right in and lit that fire. It was awesome."
Blaser had just six kills in the first three sets combined before taking over in the deciding fifth set.
"We tried several different lineups and moved kids into several different positions throughout the match, and I thought the kids responded positively to trying different things and being creative," Smith said.
Kara Kentner had 10 kills and 24 assists for the Duhawks (11-16, 1-5), who had won the last three in the series against Simpson.
Simpson packs its bags for Decatur, Ill. and the Linda Slagell Dig For The Cure Tournament, hosted by Millikin this weekend. The Storm face Wisconsin-Platteville and Wheaton (Ill.) on Friday and Blackburn and Millikin on Saturday.