NAIA National Tournament Pool Play Preview

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – No. 14 Midland University will begin play in their sixth consecutive NAIA Women’s Volleyball National Championship with pool play on Tuesday afternoon. The Warriors will play three matches in three days in Pool C against No. 18 Vanguard University, (RV) Aquinas College, and No. 3 Columbia College. The top two teams of the pool will advance to the first round of bracket and the Round of 16.

ABOUT MIDLAND (22-6): The Warriors are making their sixth consecutive appearance in the national tournament. They are one of four teams to reach the final site each of the past six years. They are led by a veteran group of athletes that include a pair of 3x NAIA All-Americans in senior middle blocker Priscilla O’Dowd and senior setter Jessica Peters. The duo, who are also co-captains, have their names all over the Midland record book. O’Dowd is the career leader in kills (1,681), block assists (485), hitting percentage (.393), and is 5th in solo blocks (78). Peters is 2nd all-time in set assists (4,825), 2nd in hitting percentage (.331), 7th in block assists (236), and 9th in digs (1,099). This year Priscilla is 2nd in hitting percentage in the NAIA (.437) and Jessica is 12th in set assists per game (10.33).

Midland received an at-large bid to the National Tournament after finishing tied for second in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. They went 13-3 in one of the toughest conferences in the NAIA and are led by Paul Giesselmann, who is in his ninth season at Midland and 17th season overall as a head coach. He is 450-162 all-time and 223-82 coaching the Warriors.

ABOUT VANGUARD (26-8): Vanguard is located in Costa Mesa, California and is a member of the Golden State Athletic Conference. They earned an at-large bid to the national tournament. They finished third in their conference with a 12-6 record, behind two other schools that find themselves in Sioux City (The Master’s and Westmont). This is their 7th appearance and first since 2015.

The Lions are led by junior setter Kirstin Trabert and senior libero/outside hitter Rebecca Lowden. Trabert ranks 15th in the NAIA in total set assists (1,247) while Lowden is 23rd in digs per set (5.6). Lowden was named GSAC Libero of the Year in 2018 and was joined by Trabert and Shaylen Larson-Piper (Sr./OH) on the GSAC All-Conference Team.

ABOUT AQUINAS (33-7): Aquinas is making their first appearance in the national championship. They earned an automatic-bid after winning the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference regular season title. They are located in Grand Rapids, Michigan and have an enrollment of around 2,500.

The Saints are led by junior outside hitter Karly Morris and a pair of senior setters in Kelsey Fischer and Stephanie Chenlo. Morris ranks 2nd in total digs this year in the NAIA (866). Fischer is 2nd in service aces (74) on the year while Chenlo is 20th in total set assists (1,209). As a team they rank 2nd with 1,880 total kills this year. Morris and Chenlo were also named to the WHAC All-Conference team along with Kristin Danielson (Sr./OH), Kylie Christensen (So./MB), Payton Klein (So./MB) and Jaclyn Rozell (Fr./OH).

ABOUT COLUMBIA (37-3): Columbia is one of four schools along with Midland that has reached Sioux City for the sixth straight year. This is the Cougars 25th appearance in the national championship dating back to 1994. They have won the national title four times, finished 2nd five times and 3rd another three times. Columbia is a member of the American Midwest Conference and earned and automatic-bid by winning the postseason tournament. They were third in the regular season with a 10-2 conference mark behind Park and Missouri Baptist, who are both in Sioux City as well.

The Cougars are led by junior setter Manuela Vargas, junior setter Kiersten Anderson, junior middle blocker Ariadne Borges, and senior outside hitter Caroline Clifford. Vargas is 4th in the NAIA in set assists per game (10.99) and 5th in total set assists (1,385). Anderson is 8th in service aces (66), while Borges is 11th in total blocks (141), and Clifford is 22nd in total kills (442). As a team they are 1st in the nation with a .313 hitting percentage.

POOL PLAY SCHEDULE:

Tuesday (Court 1) – 1:00 PM (Columbia vs. Aquinas); 3:00 PM (Midland vs. Vanguard)

Wednesday (Court 2) – 2:00 PM (Columbia vs. Vanguard); 4:00 PM (Midland vs. Aquinas)

Thursday (Court 3) – 2:00 PM (Vanguard vs. Aquinas); 4:00 PM (Columbia vs. Midland)

HOW TO WATCH/FOLLOW: Each game of the NAIA Women’s Volleyball National Tournament will be broadcasted by the NAIA Network (link). You can purchase a Daily Pass, a Tournament Pass or an All-Sports Pass to watch the Lady Warriors compete in Sioux City. Live stats will also be provided here. Additionally, Rich Ray will broadcast the games on KHUB (1340 AM/98.9 FM). You can listen to the radio broadcast, here.

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