The Pittsburg State volleyball team came out cold and lost its first two games against Missouri Western on Wednesday night in John Lance Arena, but 6-foot-3 freshman Lauren Brentlinger and 6-foot junior Corrine Stringer helped lead the Gorillas back to a 2-2 tie and almost pulled out the tie-breaker before finally losing 15-12.

The Pittsburg State volleyball team came out cold and lost its first two games against Missouri Western on Wednesday night in John Lance Arena, but 6-foot-3 freshman Lauren Brentlinger and 6-foot junior Corrine Stringer helped lead the Gorillas back to a 2-2 tie and almost pulled out the tie-breaker before finally losing 15-12.

The announcer was calling, “Point, Griffons!” too often to suit a demonstrative home crowd of about 500 on “Dig Pink Night” to promote breast cancer awareness.

Missouri Western bopped the Gorillas 25-23, 25-17 before front line hitters Molly Bergkamp, Danielle Borsari and Kelsey Sullivan joined Brentlinger and Stringer in the comeback, taking the third and fourth games 25-20, 25-13, and setting the stage for the decisive confrontation.

Pitt State led 11-6 before the Griffons began forcing errors, fought to 12-12 and then garnered the last three points.

Gorillas coach Ibraheem Suberu attributed the outcome to a loss of concentration at critical moments. “We had the opportunity to win and made the wrong errors at the wrong time,” he said.

Suberu said the squad had performed much better after its rough start but returned to its early pattern two-thirds through the fifth game. “It was mental errors,” he said.

Griffons coach Cory Fredrick was not surprised that Pitt State made it a competitive match after initially looking like it would offer an easy night. “They’re a tough team to play,” he said.

“Coach Suberu is one of the better coaches in the MIAA, and No. 10 and No. 4 (Stringer and Bergkamp) are solid outside hitters. We expected a hard game.”

Missouri Western’s Tahler Johnson and Hannah Zimmerman pounded kill shots through the first two games, occasionally stymied on blocks at the net by the leaping Stringer and Sullivan.

With the Griffons’ Jennifer House and Kelli Sicner also slamming kills, it was rally or be run off the court for the Gorillas, who wore pink jerseys in recognition of the evening.

They came back largely on tip, or “dump,” shots to unguarded spots on the floor and began forcing the Griffons into mistakes. Pitt State is now 10-15 on the season and 3-10 in conference play while Missouri Western is 11-12 and 7-7.

After pre-game recognition of the Mount Carmel and Angels Among Us groups that help raise money to combat breast cancer, Pitt State Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets took turns serving volleyballs during a break toward red, pink and yellow T-shirts arrayed on the floor with those who  hit the shirts winning them.

Spectators were invited to donate, and Gorillas volunteer student assistant Wes Book said funds had been raised for the Side-Out Foundation of Chantilly, Va., Wednesday in The Oval area outside the student center.

James R. Campbell can be reached at james.campbell@morningsun.net.