FREMONT, Neb. – No. 21 Midland University ran into one of the hottest teams in the nation in No. 23 College of Saint Mary on Wednesday night. The Flames, coming off an upset of then-No. 1 Northwestern on Saturday, swept the Warriors inside Wikert Event Center in the Great Plains Athletic Conference Semifinals (29-27, 28-26, 25-20). During the regular season the two teams split a home-and-home series with each winning on their respective home courts.
“It was a great atmosphere tonight, we had a great crowd schools championship-level volleyball,” said head coach Paul Giesselmann after the match. “It was a disappointing loss for our program tonight.”
Midland and CSM battled hard in the opening two sets as they both had multiple chances to close each other out as the games when to extra points in both. CSM rallied from down 21-16 in the opener to take game one 29-27. In game two they came back from down 19-14 to win 28-26.
The third set saw the Flames take advantage of their momentum as they silenced the Midland crowd on their way to a 25-20 clinching win. They led virtually wire-to-wire in the third with the Warriors’ only lead coming at 9-8 before a 3-0 run by CSM to regain the lead.
“In both games one and two we had built significant leads and had an opportunity to close out both of those games and just squandered it away. How we lost those games was disappointing. With all that being said, you have to give College of Saint Mary a ton of credit. They’re as hot as any team in the country right now. They’re playing fearless and they’re playing with a lot of confidence. Coach [Rick] Pruett’s done a fantastic job with that program.”
Midland finished with a .085 team hitting percentage with 40 kills and 29 errors on 129 attempts. The Flames hit .171 for the match with 45 kills against 24 errors on 123 swings.
In the back row Jaisa Russell and Taliyah Flores each had 11 digs to pace the Warriors defensively. At the net it was Sydney Morehouse leading the team with 6 block assists while Maddie Wieseler had a hand on 5 blocks as well.
“At this point we feel like as the fourth team in the GPAC, who made to the semis in the deepest conference in the nation and lost to a nationally-ranked team, we should have enough on our resume to get an opening round bid. We’ve battled hard all year. Our players just came up short tonight.”
Midland (19-10) will now have to wait to learn their fate for a nationals berth. On Monday morning the NAIA will release the final regular season poll and the names of the 44 teams earning a bid to the NAIA Postseason Tournament at 10:00 a.m. The Top 19 teams will earn an automatic advancement to Sioux City, Iowa and to pool play at the final site along with the host-school. The other 24 schools with compete in an opening round game to determine the final dozen spots for the national tournament held at the Tyson Event Center.