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End of the road: Jimmies lose in national semifinals

The University of Jamestown women's volleyball team faced Park University in the NAIA National Volleyball Tournament semifinals Friday evening.

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Corina Huff, center, taps the ball over the net during the NAIA National Volleyball Tournament semifinals against Park University. Courtesy Ryan Mikkelson / UJ Sports Information Director

A historic season isn't supposed to end short of accomplishing the goal, but for the University of Jamestown women's volleyball team -- it did.

The Jimmies have now reached -- and fell -- in three straight NAIA National Volleyball Tournament semifinal rounds, their most recent loss coming against Park University on Friday evening at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.

The Pirates had their way with the No. 1 ranked Jimmies, defeating them 25-15, 25-22, 25-11 to advance to their third national title game in eight years.

UJ's straight-set loss to Park was the lone blemish on the Jimmies' record this season. UJ head coach Jon Hegerle's squad produced a perfect 35-0 record leading up to the semifinal tilt, the most wins the program has seen. 30 of the Jimmies' 36 games were won in straight sets by the Jimmies.

Friday's match carried a very similar tone to that of last spring's national semifinal round, with the Jimmies' opponents capitalizing on attacking errors and taking control early on. The energy, positivity and togetherness that carried the Jimmies through the three months of competitive play wasn't meshing the way the Jimmies were used to.

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While UJ was working to play as a unit, Park seemed ok with giving the ball to one particular member of their starting six.

Two-time NAIA Player of the Year, Nada Meawad proved basically unstoppable through the whole 75 points.

Meawad, a recruit from Egypt's national women's volleyball team, tallied 24 kills off a .486 hitting percentage. Anna Holen, Corina Huff, Jayla Ritter and Kalli Hegerle combined for 23 kills for the Jimmies. Meawad was also busy in the back row where she was credited for 16 digs off the 127 attacks attempted by the Jimmies.

As a team, Park tabulated 20 more kills than the Jimmies' 27 recorded. UJ only hit .039 while the Pirates swung for .306. In the first, Park rattled off 12 points before an attack error on Malaina Hensley finally got the Jimmies back into it. The score stood at 12-4 Pirates.

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Anna Holen serves the ball during the NAIA National Volleyball Tournament semifinals Saturday in Sioux City, Iowa. Courtesy Ryan Mikkelson / UJ Sports Information Director

Meawad made it set point for the Pirates, but the No. 1 team in the country capitalized on a pair of blocks from Corina Huff and an attack from Holen to make it 24-15 Pirates. After head coach Michael Talamantes called a timeout, setter Vera Beltrame set up the outside to put it away with a cross-court shot.

Ritter gave the Jimmies their first lead of the game, with a smash from the 6-foot middle to make it 4-3. Park managed to tie it, but Kalli Hegerle kept the Jimmies' lead alive with a soft touch over the net to make it 5-4. A few plays later, tied at seven, Park kicked off a 3-0 run to gain a three-point advantage.

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A 3-2 run by the Jims seemed to rattle Talamantes and the head coach burned his first timeout of the second.

Play in the second closely mirrored the Jimmies' play in the third set against Bellevue University in the NAIA quarterfinals. The back and forth battle made it 17-13 Park, but a 5-0 run capped off by a kill from Aleah Zieske gave the Jimmies' a one-point advantage.

It wouldn't be enough as Park kept feeding Meawad, who kept notching points. A controversial attack error call on Jackie Meiklejohn got Coach Hegerle livid and put Park within one of clinching the second set win. Meawad ended it with a strike from the outside.

Even after an extended break to regroup before the third, the top-dogs couldn't find their edge. The Pirates raced out to a 9-2 lead, capped off with Meawad earning her 20th kill of the match.

Zieske broke the cycle with a strike on the outside, but it was too little too late. Malaina Hensley and Noura Meawad made it 11-3. A dump over the net from Gaffaney ended the Pirates' 3-0 run, but the Pirates rebounded to put themselves up 18-7.

A 7-4 run by the Pirates made it 25-11, sending Park through to the national title match, to be played Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Hegerle and his squad locked up the GPAC regular-season championship on Oct. 30 with a 3-1 win over the College of Saint Mary. Over the past four seasons, the Jimmies have garnered a 122-18 record, two regular-season GPAC championships, three GPAC tournament championships and three appearances in the NAIA Tournament semifinals.

The No. 1 ranked team in the nation has tabulated only nine losses in three years and three throughout the last two seasons. The Jimmies' appearances in the national semis are the farthest any University of Jamestown team has advanced during the course of a season.

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UJ has been to six straight NAIA tournaments and Hegerle has the highest win percentage of any Jimmie volleyball coach.

Park University 3, University of Jamestown 0

PARK 25 25 25

UJ 15 22 11

PARK -- Kills: Nada Meawad 24, Debora Bernardi 11, Noura Meawad 8, Malaina Hensley 4, Isabela Ribeiro 1. Assists: Vera Beltrame 39, Giovanna Bello 5, Meawad 1, Bernardi 1, Noura Meawad 1. Digs: Meawad 16, Noura Meawad 14, Bello 13, Hensley 11, Beltrame 8, Kasia Penyock 4, Bernardi 2. Aces: Penyock 2. Blocks: Bernardi 7, Meawad 2, Beltrame 2, Hensley 2, Riberio 1, Noura Meawad 1.

UJ -- Kills: Anna Holen 9, Corina Huff 6, Jayla Ritter 4, Kalli Hegerle 4, Megan Gaffaney 2, Aleah Zieske 2, Jackie Mieklejohn 1. Assists: Meiklejohn 10, Gaffaney 10, Ellie Holen 5, Anna Holen 2. Digs: Ellie Holen 17, Anna Holen 11, Meiklejohn 9, Hannah Schiele 7, Megan Gaffaney 6, Kalli Hegerle 3, Aleah Zieske 1. Aces: Holen 1, Gaffaney 1. Blocks: Huff 4, Taylor Sabinash 2, Ritter 1, Hegerle 1, Zieske 1.

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