On to Sioux City: Women's volleyball earns at-large berth into NAIA National Tournament
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On November 27, in Sioux City Iowa, the Westmont women’s volleyball team will be competing for the NAIA National Tournament. The Westmont Warriors have made it as far as third place in the tournament, but that was in 1993. The Warriors will now have a chance at redemption.
They will be faced with opponents that will make them scrape for every point, but this is not new to the Warriors. After having a tough start to the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) season, during which they lost three times, the Warriors were able to turn it around for a 14-game winning streak.
Head Coach Patti Cook said, “There was a moment in the middle of this season when the outcome was questionable, but we made a decision to keep fighting and put our destiny back in our hands.”
The turning point was the third loss of the season to Hope International. Cassidy Rea, a third year starter, said, “We were all pretty devastated. Through that experience, though, we learned a lot about how to work together better, on and off the court.”
The Warriors were on the cusp of not being able to go to the National Tournament. They lost in the championship game of the GSAC Tournament to The Master’s University. Both teams had beaten the other once in the regular season. This showdown would determine who received an automatic bid to nationals from the GSAC. The two teams battled until the fourth set, when the Warriors lost to the Mustangs. Although the Warriors didn’t win, they still received an invitation to Sioux City due to being ranked 15th in the country in the NAIA.
The National Tournament final site in Sioux City contains 32 teams. Westmont, who received an opening round bye, advances straight to the final site and immediately travels to the Tyson Events Center. There, it will be a placement battle in pool play among three other teams.
After pool play is single-elimination bracket play. This will take place on November 30, in the Tyson Events Center with the semifinals and finals happening on December 1.
The challenges for the Warriors will not just be the tough opponents, but also the exhaustion. Not only will the time change affect the women in the early mornings of the tournament, but playing games all day long will contribute to their exhaustion.
Lauren Friis, sophomore libero for the Warriors, said, “Our mindset is to take it one game at a time. This team is very, very athletic and the team that takes home the championship is the team who can outlast the others!”
She said the key to getting past the exhaustion “is to build up our endurance in practice and keep working really hard.”
Sam Neely, senior middle blocker and newly-crowned GSAC Player of the Year, said, “The idea of playing a potential of 7 games in 5 days speaks for itself I think in terms of exhaustion. I always say that the National Tournament is a tournament of outplaying and outlasting [both physically and mentally]. We recognize this and take the time to allow our bodies and minds to recover properly before the next game.”
As this will be Neely’s, Amy Buffham’s, and Libby Dahlberg’s last National Tournament, they look to leave a legacy of fierce competitiveness, love, and passion for the sport.