SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Playing in the final game of the day in NAIA Volleyball Championship, No. 9-ranked Midland University netted a four-set victory over No. 15-ranked Montana Technological University (26-24, 28-26, 25-16, 25-22). The Warriors and Orediggers traded blows early with each of the first two sets going to extra points. The teams split the sets before a runaway win in the third and another close set in the fourth.
“I was really proud of our toughness tonight against a really good Montana Tech team,” said head coach Paul Giesselmann after the win. “We got down a little bit in a couple of those games and we just hung in there, kept battling. That’s what tournament volleyball is all about up here. Every point is hard. I love how our team stayed focused and played one point at a time.”
Like the ball going from one side of the net to the other, the scoreboard followed suit in the opening set. Each time one team scored, the other would match. Through the first 18 points, there were 8 ties. The lone point that wasn’t matched, was eight as the Orediggers scored back-to-back to take a 9-7 before the Warriors met them at the point.
A 3-0 run by Tech put them up 14-10, but Midland was unphased and battled back. Trailing 21-15, the Warriors went on an 8-0 run to take over the lead. Just as the set began, there was one more tie down the stretch. With the score knotted up at 24-24, a service error by the Diggers gave the Warriors set point and a kill by Brooke Fredrickson sealed the opening set, 26-24.
Set two followed a similar script with teams trading points once more. This time around there were 12 ties by the sides. Trailing 23-20, Midland forced extra points, tying the set at 23, 24, 25, and 26. Back-to-back attacking errors by the Warriors gave the Diggers the set 28-26, and a tie in the match.
Fans watching the live stats or the scoreboard had time to ice their necks in the third set as Midland led virtually the entire way. After falling behind 2-0, they scored two straight to tie it and never relinquished their lead. After a final tie at 7-7, the Warriors went on a 4-0 run. The rally continued as their lead grew to as many as 10 at 23-13. Five points later, Midland closed out Tech 25-16 and took a 2-1 lead in the match.
The fourth set put the fans’ necks back to work as the teams traded points once more. Midland earned the first separation of more than a point, going up 4-2 early. Tech responded with a mini-run of their own to move ahead 9-7. They held on to that advantage and increased it by one at 15-12.
A timely timeout by the Warriors flipped the set back to their favor as a 4-0 run ensued after the huddle, forcing a timeout by the Diggers. The regrouping and focus aided them as they worked their way to seven more ties with Midland and moved ahead 22-21. That prompted a timeout they the Warriors.
The discussion served its purpose as they closed out the set and the match with four straight points, winning 25-22.
Midland hit .220 for the match behind the direction of setter Hope Leimbach. She had a match-high 52 assists. On the receiving end of the bulk of her assists were Taliyah Flores and Cortlyn Schaefer. Flores had a match-high 18 kills while Schaefer had 17 terminations.
Defensively, the Warriors had nine blocks on the night. Abbey Ringler had a part on five while Lauryn Samuelson had four block assists. Delanie Vallinch had 24 digs to lead the way. She was joined in double-digit digs by Leimbach (14), Flores (11), and Fredrickson (11).
“For having four freshmen on the court (Moss, Ringler, Schaefer, and Vallinch), I was really proud of their composure,” added Coach Giesselmann. “They didn’t look rattled. Playing the schedule that we play all year long, really helps. We’re seeing great teams in our conference and then try to challenge ourselves in the non-conference.”
The win moves the Warriors to 1-0 in the pool while the Orediggers fall to 1-1. Midland will face Marian (0-1) at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday. The Warriors can clinch their spot in the quarterfinals with a win while a win by their opponents would put into motion a series of tie-breaking sets.