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Seniors lead Jimmies into North Star tourney

This week may be the end of the line for the University of Jamestown volleyball team’s four seniors.

But if it is, the Jimmies would rather it be this weekend than today, when they host Dakota State in the semifinals of the North Star Athletic Association tournament at the Hansen Center. The match is slated for 7 p.m., with Mayville State hosting Valley City State in the other semifinal.

A win would send top-seeded Jamestown into the conference championship match, which would be played Saturday night at the Hansen Center.

“I don’t think they’re ready for their season to be done at all,” Jamestown coach Jon Hegerle said.

Sarah Becker, Kelsey Deragisch, Alex Hanson and Sarah Didychuk are looking to ensure the Jimmies make it to at least the weekend.

Becker, a 6-foot middle hitter from Rochester, Minn., is a two-time All-American with a team-best 310 kills. She has the top hitting percentage in the NAIA at 0.485.

“We know that if she’s getting a lot of chances and swings at the ball and we’re in system, the other team is gonna have a lot of trouble stopping her,” Hegerle said. “When every other ball you hit is a kill, you’re pretty darn efficient.”

Hegerle called Deragisch the team’s “fiercest competitor” and “our leader with her competitive spirit.” The setter from Marshall, Minn., is a four-year starter.

“She gets our team going and holds our team accountable to playing at the level they’re capable of,” Hegerle said. “She has close to 2,500 assists in her career and her defense has been tremendous. There’s a lot of things we’re gonna miss about her from a skills standpoint, but also those intangibles that are so important to the team.”

Hanson, a 6-foot Jamestown High grad, has flourished in her final collegiate year, which Hegerle attributed to a move to the right side.

“She’s had a breakout year this year in hitting efficiency and kills, and from a blocking standpoint,” Hegerle said. “She creates so many problems for teams with the way she hits the ball.”

Didychuck is an outside hitter from Brandon, Manitoba. Her presence was a huge question mark when the season ended last year because of the three ligaments she tore in her knee. Still, she made it back and has become a solid contributor.

“The thing I really like about Sarah is that she fights so hard,” Hegerle said. “She’s not gonna waste a chance to take a swing if it comes down to it.”

Didychuck actually has another year of eligibility, but is set to graduate in the spring.

“I always kid her about coming back,” Hegerle joked. “She’s got to get out and do what she wants to do, and we get that.”

As with many successful programs, the seniors are often invaluable, and Hegerle said this group is no different.

“They put in a tremendous amount of time and effort,” he said. “It’s disappointing for them if we don’t end up making it to nationals, but we know that’s a strong possibility.”

Jamestown left the Association of Independent Institutions this year for the NSAA, which is in its inaugural year. The former conference had an automatic bid, which is why the Jimmies made nationals last year.

With only five teams in the NSAA, the NAIA does not award an automatic bid. Dickinson State is set to join the conference next year, giving it the required sixth team.

To make nationals this year, the Jimmies need to finish somewhere around the top 20 in the NAIA coaches poll. Currently, they aren’t in the top 25 and aren’t among the 13 schools in the “also receiving votes” category. The new poll was released Tuesday.

Sun sportswriter Chris Aarhus can be reached at (701) 952-8462 or