FREMONT, Neb. – Youth was on display inside the Wikert Event Center on Friday night as No. 8 Midland University faced No. 3 Grand View University in the opener of the Nebraska Strong Warrior Invitational. The Warriors, coming off a Final Four appearance at last year’s NAIA Tournament, trotted out a nearly brand-new lineup for the season opener. It took a while for the Midland newcomers to adjust as they fell to the Vikings in four sets (25-15, 25-20, 16-25, 25-22).
The most noticeable new faces for the Warriors were at the setter and middle blocker positions. Gone are Jessica Peters and Priscilla O’Dowd, four-year All-Americans who graduated this past spring. Replacing them are a handful of new faces. Freshmen Bree Burtwistle and Hope Leimbach have taken over setting duties while sophomore Teisa Tuioti and freshman Maddie Wieseler are new to that attack.
In the opening set the Warriors hit a mere .162 while their opponents hit for a blistering .343. The second set saw the gap narrow even though Midland’s percentage dropped to .091 as GVU hit .108 from the attack.
“I was really disappointed in how we came out tonight. I just didn’t feel like the team was prepared to play at a high-level against the No. 3 team and that’s on me as a coach” commented head coach Paul Giesselmann. “We’ve got to give Grand View a lot of credit too. They are a top-five team for reason. They dominated the serve and pass tonight and that was a big difference.”
Midland had 11 service errors against 7 aces in the match, .190 hitting percentage compared to just 6 errors, 8 aces and a .204 percentage for Grand View. The teams were even with 63 digs each and the Warriors had one more kill that the Vikings, 49-48.
Individually, veteran returners Taylor Petersen, Sydney Morehouse, and Maggie Hiatt led the way offensively. They trio all finished with double-digit kills as Petersen had 13 while the other two had 10 each.
Burtwistle and Leimbach combined for 42 of the team’s 47 set assists. Burtwistle had 24 while Leimbach had 18.
“Both teams were playing and some young players. Their setter did a great job of getting them in a lot of one-on-one situations. Now I do like how our team responded after really struggling the first game and a half. I thought that halfway through game two, even though we lost the game, we started to put stuff together and play at a high level. That continued into game three. Unfortunately in the fourth, even though we were playing well, Grand View got a two or three point lead off a couple mistakes, and that’s the difference in the game.”
“The good thing for us that we get to get back on the court tomorrow morning.”
Midland will play two more matches in the NebraskaStrong Warrior Invite on Saturday. They’ll face St. Ambrose at 11:00 a.m. and Briar Cliff in the finale at 5:30 p.m. In the other match on day one of the invite, Briar Cliff came back to defeat St. Ambrose in four sets.