SIOUX CITY, Iowa – No. 14 Midland University came away with a four-set victory over No. 18 Vanguard University in the opening game of pool play at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Women’s Volleyball National Championship on Wednesday afternoon. The Warriors pick up an important win in pool play over the third-seeded Lions and improve to 23-6 on the season. Vanguard’s record falls to 26-9 with the loss.
It was a back and forth, seesaw battle nearly the entire way between the two Top 20 teams. Set one saw eight ties and four lead changes before Midland went on a five point run to go up 17-13. They would keep the Lions at bay the rest of the set for the first set victory.
The second set saw Vanguard work their way to a big lead looking to even things up. After being tied 11-11 the Lions went on a 9-1 run that put them in the driver’s seat. They would falter though with six attacking errors that allowed Midland to come all the way back and tie the match at 23-23.
The Warriors would take a one point lead on a kill by Maggie Hiatt but were unable to seal the set as they had not one but two serving errors to let the Lions back in it. With the score tied 25-25, the Warriors got a kill by Priscilla O’Dowd followed by another attack error by the Lions to take the set, 27-25.
On the brink of being swept, Vanguard didn’t’ back down. They came out in the third set and match the Warriors point for point, literally. The team exchanged single points all the way to a 9-9 tie before one of them was able to hold serve. It was the Lions who got a pair of kills followed by an attack error by the Warriors, giving them an 11-9 lead.
Midland battled back and regained control of the match with a 5-0 run. However they could not finish off the sweep as Vanguard chipped away little by little to tie the game at 20-20, then 21-21, before sending the game to a fourth set with a 5-1 run for the 25-22 victory.
“We knew they were a really great team and they presented a lot of problems,” commented head coach Paul Giesselmann after the match. “I was really proud of our serve-receive tonight. I told our team during the first time to catch their breath, we’ve been here before.”
Midland showed their experience in the fourth set. After exchanging points with the Lions once again on the way to a 14-14 tie, they went on an 11-3 to season the match.
Jessica Peters coordinated a balanced attack that saw four Warriors get 30-plus swings at the ball. She finished the match with 40 assists while also digging 10 balls for a double-double performance. Jaisa Russell led the team in digs with 18 while O’Dowd was just one behind with 17.
In addition to her tying her career-best number of digs, O’Dowd also had a team-high 18 kills for a double-double of her own. Next highest for the Warriors in kills was Taylor Petersen with 11. As a team Midland had 54 kills on 171 swings, hitting .193 on the match.
“Every match is going to matter in our pool,” Coach Giesselmann added. “Whether it comes down the tie-breakers or whatever it is. All we can control and worry about is who were are playing at the moment. We talked about it with our team after they watch Columbia go down in the game before us.”
Up next will be a 4:00 p.m. matchup with (RV) Aquinas (34-7) on Wednesday afternoon inside the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City. The Saints upset No. 3-ranked Columbia, the top team in Pool C, in five-sets on Tuesday.