SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Midland University had themselves a day to remember up in Sioux City, Iowa at the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Women’s Volleyball National Championship on Friday. The No. 14-ranked Warriors began their day with a late afternoon match with No. 4 Missouri Baptist University in the Round of 16, where they won a tough four-set match, and finished it with a thrilling come-from-behind win over defending national champion and No. 6-ranked Lindsey Wilson College.
In their first match of the day the Warriors were put by the Spartans. The matchup was a rematch from the season opener for both squads back in August, nearly three and a half months ago in Springfield, Missouri. Just like then, it was the underdog Warriors who came away with a four-set win (25-23, 22-25, 25-17, 25-18).
Jaisa Russell led the team with 18 digs in the match. Three others joined here in double digit digs. Jessica Peters had 11 digs while Brooke Fredrickson and Mackenzie Wecker each had 10. Peters added 45 set assists for a double-double, her third of the national tournament.
Offensively it was Priscilla O’Dowd leading the way with 19 kills while hitting .474 in the match. Taylor Petersen and Jenny Bair both joined her in double figure kills with 13 and 10 respectively.
After a short break to refuel and get off their feet for a while the Warriors were back at with another matchup with a top ten team in No. 6 Lindsey Wilson. The two squads had met just once before Friday night. In 2016 they squared off in the NAIA National Tournament Quarterfinals with a trip the final day on the line. It was the exact same scenario again.
Things didn’t start out for Midland the way they wanted as they were outplayed in the opening sets. The Blue Raiders won the opener 25-16 and the second 25-19.
“They rolled us in game one…the first two games actually,” commented head coach Paul Giesselmann. “We were flat. Back on our heels. I’m not sure the team believed they could play with Lindsey Wilson.”
During the break though Coach Giesselmann and the rest of the coaching staff encouraged the girls to win the first five points, and then the next five, and so on.
They did that jumping ahead 5-3 and then 10-7. Slowly they began playing better and the momentum shifted to their side as they won the third set 25-22. It continued in the fourth as Lindsey Wilson’s players and coaches started to get noticeably flustered.
LWC’s head coach questioned numerous calls by the officials all night and eventually drew a yellow card in the fourth set during a five point run by the Warriors that saw them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish as they won 25-19 to even the match.
In the fifth and final set it was the Blue Raiders who came out firing as they jumped in front 4-1 and then 8-6. Lindsey Wilson must’ve forgot to take the momentum with them though as the teams swapped sides. Midland would seize it and went on a 9-4 run to win the set 15-12 and the match.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” added Coach Giesselmann. “As I told them, what makes it so special is looking at the two teams we had to play and beat today. You’re talking about Missouri Baptist, the No. 4-seed and the defending national champions in Lindsey Wilson…and they were good enough to win it again this year.”
Once again it was the veterans coming through for Midland as seniors Jessica Peters, Priscilla O’Dowd and Jenny Bair all made big plays throughout along with solid play by fellow seniors Mackenzie Wecker and Sheyenne Smith.
Peters and O’Dowd each finished with double-doubles. Jessica had 55 set assists and 17 digs with 4 blocks while Priscilla had 20 kills and 11 digs to go along with 5 blocks. Jenny finished with 13 kills, six of which came in the final two sets.
Defensively the Warriors dug a season-high 85 balls. Brooke Fredrickson led the way with 20 while Jaisa Russell added 16 and Mackenzie Wecker had 12.
Things won’t get any easier for Midland (26-7) as they will take on Park University (34-1) for a shot in the national championship game. First serve between the Warriors and Pirates is set for 11:00 a.m. inside the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.