Courtesy of Midland Athletics
FREMONT, Neb. – The final stage of the volleyball season got underway on Saturday as No. 15 Midland University hosted Kansas Wesleyan University in an NAIA Opening Round match in Fremont, Nebraska. With a spot in the final site on the line, the Warriors proved to be too much of the Coyotes to handle as they came away with a four-set victory (25-15, 25-13, 22-25, 25-13). The win advances Midland to pool play at the final site of the 2023 NAIA Volleyball Championship in Sioux City, Iowa. It will be the Warriors’ tenth trip in program history, the first coming in the 2013 season.
Midland jumped out in front early, taking 7 of the first 10 points of the first set before KWU battled back to tie it with a 5-1 run. The Warriors countered with an 8-1 run that began with three straight blocks of the Coyotes’ attack. Lauryn Samuelson teamed up with Lauren Williams on the first two and then joined forces with Cortlyn Schaefer for the third.
With the set firmly in control, Midland used a five-point run to reach set point at, 24-14. Two points later, they closed out the set with a kill by Williams, winning 25-15 in the best-of-five match.
In the second, the Warriors saw their early lead of 6-2 evaporate as the Coyotes went on a five-point run to take their first lead of the match. After swapping points up to an 8-8 tie, Midland went a 10-3 to take over the set. Down the stretch, KWU committed four straight attack errors, two into the defensive block, as MU closed on a 6-0 run to take the set, 25-13.
With their eyes on a sweep, the Warriors jumped out to a 10-5 lead in the third set. The Coyotes, who made the trek from Salina, Kansas, were not about to roll over though as they clawed back. A 3-0 run brought them within a point, 16-15, forcing a Midland timeout.
After trading points, Kansas Wesleyan used a pair of two-point swings to take the lead 23-22, which prompted the final timeout from the Midland bench. Coming out of the stoppage, a long rally went the way of the visitors as a touch was called on the Warriors, putting the Coyotes on set point. They capitalized on the good fortune with a kill on the next rally to take the third, 25-22.
Coming into the next set, Midland was focused on finishing the match in four. A 6-1 run to start the set by the Warriors grew into a 14-8 lead midway through. Leading 18-12, Midland closed out the match with a 7-1 run, winning 25-13.
“I love how our team came out focused and set the tone for the match in the first set,” said head coach Paul Giesselmann. “Our team defense was really good this afternoon. I am really proud of how this team trusted the process and is now going to Sioux City for the 10th time in 11 seasons.”
Midland hit .250 as a team for the match while holding Kansas Wesleyan to a .036 hitting percentage. Three Warriors reached double figures in kills with Jacki Apel‘s 12 the highwater mark. Lauren Williams had 11 kills followed by Lauryn Samuelson with 10.
Midland (16-11) will begin preparing for pool play at the final site of the 2023 NAIA Volleyball National Championship. The format consists of eight pools of three teams with the winner of each group advancing to a single-elimination bracket. Pool matchups will be announced by the NAIA on Sunday with play beginning on Wednesday, November 29 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.