Poll not the goal: Successful program still not receiving top 25 votesBreaking into the top 25 in certain NAIA sports seems to require a super-secret password, or funneling funds to someone under a fictitious table. Neither is the case, at least we don’t think, but breaking through has been a challenge.
By: By Dave Selvig, The Jamestown Sun, The Jamestown Sun
Breaking into the top 25 in certain NAIA sports seems to require a super-secret password, or funneling funds to someone under a fictitious table.
Neither is the case, at least we don’t think, but breaking through has been a challenge.
For years it was the Jamestown College baseball team that seemed to do everything required, yet couldn’t quite crack the top 25. Eventually it happened, and now Tom Hager’s team is perennially ranked, or at least in the mix.
Jon Hegerle feels some of the frustrations Hager did before the baseball team began to earn national respect. The JC volleyball team has won four straight conference titles and has beaten a handful of ranked teams in recent years, yet can’t seem to break through. The Jimmies did not even receive votes in the preseason poll, although thanks to their 4-2 start, that could change Sept. 4 when the first in-season rankings are released.
“It’s not something we spend a lot of time talking or worrying about, but it would be great for our program and for the girls to get that type of recognition,” Hegerle said. “I’ve talked to coach Hager about it, and it comes back to winning and winning consistently over an extended period of time.
“In the end, we don’t have control of anything other than how we do, so that has to be our main focus.”
Of the Jimmies four wins, one is over a ranked team — No. 19 Bellevue, Neb. — and Dordt, which has beaten all eight of its opponents accept the Jimmies. Dordt has wins over No. 19 Carroll (Mont.) and Great Falls, Mont., which received votes in the preseason poll.
All these northern-tier NAIA teams knocking each other off, becomes part of the problem. The voters see that and they end up splitting the vote and nobody gets in.
“Every year we beat one or two ranked teams, but then they seem to drop in the rankings,” Hegerle said.
The sheer number of NAIA teams also factors in. There are 240 schools that play volleyball, but the top 10 or so programs are all but locked into the rankings because they are, truthfully, a different level than everyone else. Hegerle compared them favorably to NCAA Division I teams in some cases. The elite programs are often built around top international players, similar to what Dickinson State did in the early-to-mid 2000s.
So that essentially leaves 15 spots for over 220 teams to fight over.
“Your hope is that you keep putting yourself in situations where you’re not only playing good teams, but then beating them and hopefully that gets recognized,” Hegerle said. “That’s all we can really do.”
They’ve succeeded at that in the early goings.
“Just talking to different coaches (last) weekend, you could feel people taking notice,” Hegerle said.
The Jimmies won’t face that level of competition this weekend in Mitchell, S.D., but it’s a chance for four more wins as they take on NCAA Division II Sioux Falls, S.D., and host Dakota Wesleyan on Friday and York College (Neb.) and Mount Marty (S.D.) on Saturday.
The Jimmies are led statistically by Sarah Becker (65 kills, 19 blocks) and Katie Zent (24 kills, 17 blocks). Freshman Alaina Brown’s 12 aces are team leading. Kelsey Deragisch has 11 aces to go along with 131 assists. Katie Lee has 11 aces 93 digs. The former Fargo South Bruin is 21st in the NAIA in digs per set at 4.04.
However, there’s still room for improvement, Hegerle said. The serving has been good, but can be better. He also wants to see better play at the net, particularly against big teams with a good block. But overall, so far, so good.
“I feel good about the season and the way the girls are competing both in practice and in matches,” Hegerle said. “We can’t stand still. There has to be continued improvement and I think our team understands that.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org