SIOUX CITY, Iowa – No. 14 Midland University dropped their final match of pool play to No. 3 Columbia College on Thursday in four sets. The loss by the Warriors and win by the Cougars, combined with Aquinas’ win in the match prior meant all three teams tied with a 2-1 record in Pool C of the NAIA Women’s Volleyball National Championship.
With the teams having identical marks and essentially tying for first place in the pool, tiebreakers were brought in to determine the order of finish. Midland received the top spot via a better set winning percentage amongst the three tied teams (MU – .571, CC – .557, AQ – .375). The second spot would be determined with a one set, winner take all match after the other pools were complete. Columbia would take that set 25-16 to advance out of the pool with Midland.
In the match between the Warriors and Cougars, both teams came out swinging. The scoreboard was like a teeter-totter during the opening set as each team would go on little runs to capture the lead or tie. Eventually it was Columbia who would take the set 25-21.
They would ride that momentum into the second set as they took a 7-6 lead over Midland and never looked back. The Cougars had three separate five point leads, the last coming at 20-15 before the Warriors rallied back to within one at 23-22 and then again at 24-23. Columbia would seal the win though on the next attempt with a kill from their outside hitter.
Midland had 17 errors in the opening sets with aided the Cougars who had 12 of the own.
“We were disappointed we lost game two,” head coach Paul Giesselmann commented. “We just got beat in game one. I thought our players were a little back on their heels in that first game, but in the second game we actually outhit them. If we make one or two smarter plays, we win that game. When you’re playing a team like Columbia, you can’t score your points and their points.”
The Warriors regrouped after falling down 2-0 and came out focused at the start of the third set. With Mackenzie Wecker back at the service line they jumped out to a 5-0 lead and cruised to a 25-15 set win. Midland limited their errors to just six in the set while Columbia had eight miscues.
“In game three we were the more aggressive team and it was the difference,” Coach Giesselmann stated. “We really started winning serve-receive and all of sudden you can see what the result was when we do that and limit our errors.”
In the fourth set the Warriors’ momentum died out as they gave up an 8-1 run after being tied at 10 apiece. They had their work cut out for them and having already clinched the top seed they could’ve conceded the match at that point but that’s not the character of this team. They battled all the way back to within a point, 24-23, but ran out of steam as the Cougars clinched the match with a kill.
“We got down in game four and then had to expend so much energy to battle back, but we did,” said Giesselmann about the final set. “I just love this team though. You talk about a group of fighters. It doesn’t matter to them who is on the other side of the net. We had a chance, we just needed another few points to force a fifth set.”
The next team to lineup on the other side of the net will be No. 4 Missouri Baptist (33-5) who earned the second spot out of Pool D. Midland (24-7) faced the Spartans in the very first match of the year all the way back on August 16 and won the match in four sets. They’ll look for a similar outcome on Friday afternoon. First serve is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. on Court 2 inside the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.