SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Midland University clinched their third straight appearance into the round of 16 of the NAIA Volleyball National Championship with a straight-set victory over Saint Xavier on Wednesday evening. This will be the fourth time that the Warriors have advanced out of pool play into the brackets portion of the tournament.
“We weren’t as sharp as yesterday in regards to our passing but I thought our players were really good at the end of each game,” commented head coach Paul Giesselmann. “Having been here in the past certainly helped us when it counted. I did think we blocked much better than in the first game of the tournament, and that was a big factor today. We are really proud of this team for advancing to another Sweet 16.”
Set one was close early as both teams traded points up until an 8-8 tie. Midland would take a two-point lead and then go on another short run to lead 21-15. The Cougars responded with a run of their own but never were able to get closer than a point as Midland took the first set 25-22.
Midland hit .265 in the set while limiting SXU to just .106 on their attack. They set the tone with seven blocks in the game. They would finish with 12 on the match.
The two teams would play one of the best sets of the day in the second as the Cougars looked to even things up and Midland looked for the commanding lead. The set featured 11 ties and 5 lead changes, including ties at 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29 before Midland would close it out on a kill by Jenny Bair and a block by Bretschneider and Sydney Morehouse.
Midland had a balanced attack behind Priscilla O’Dowd who led the team with 13. Bair finished with seven while Taylor Petersen had six and Bretschneider and Morehouse both had five.
The Warriors carried the momentum into the third as they jumped out to a 9-2 lead and kept the Cougars at arm’s length throughout. They got back within one point at 13-12 before another Midland run of four straight.
Defensively the Warriors were well balanced in their efforts as four players reached double figures. Jessica Peters, who also had 32 set assists, led the way with 15. Jessica Nekl had 13 digs, O’Dowd added 12 and Mackenzie Wecker had 10.
Up next for Midland (21-9) is a matchup with No. 6 Westmont (34-3). The top two seeds of Pool F will square off at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday inside the Tyson Events Center with the top spot in the pool on the line.