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Jimmies prepare for national pool play opponents

UJ VB vs. BC sydney.jpg
University of Jamestown's Sydney Ellingso watches a ball sail out of bounds earlier this season at Harold Newman Arean. The Jimmies open national tournament pool play next Tuesday (Dec. 3) in Sioux City, Iowa. Michael Savaloja / The Sun

Winning the Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament championship at Harold Newman Arena on Nov. 16 has energized the eighth-ranked Jimmie women's volleyball team ahead of its fourth consecutive national tournament appearance.

The University of Jamestown found out its NAIA championship tournament pool assignment on Sunday. The Jimmies are the top seed in Pool H, which also consists of ninth-ranked Columbia (Missouri), Westmont (California) and Xavier (Lousiana).

A total of 32 teams competing in eight pools will begin play on Dec. 3 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. The top two teams from each pool will advance to an elimination-bracket playoff beginning Dec. 6.

"That was certainly a cool deal and something you can always look back on and think, 'Wow, that was awesome,'" said UJ coach Jon Hegerle on the Jimmies' 3-0 sweep over College of Saint Mary for the GPAC crown. "I think once the season's over we'll have more time to reflect. But, yeah, the mood in the gym is pretty good. We've had some really good, competitive practices."

The Jimmies (29-4) open pool play on Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. facing Xavier University (31-6). The Gold Nuggets lost eight consecutive NAIA opening-round matches before topping William Carey (Mississippi) 3-0 last Saturday to advance to the final site in Sioux City for the first time.

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UJ VB vs. BC jackie corina.jpg
The Jimmies' Jackie Meiklejohn sets a pass to Corina Ruud during play this season at Harold Newman Arena. Michael Savaloja / The Sun

Xavier ranks second in the nation in total service aces (293), ninth in hitting percentage (.248) and is led by 5-foot-11 junior middle blocker Vivica Price-Spraggins (.338), 5-9 junior outside Kayla Black (435 kills) and 6-2 junior hitter Ema Causevic (55 aces).

"They've got some big guns," Hegerle said. "They've got a really good outside hitter and their libero is really good. All these teams look very formidable, so I think it's a tough pool. But what pool isn't at nationals?"

Next up is Westmont at 2 p.m. on Dec. 4. The Warriors (26-6) are back in pool play for a fourth straight year, topping Point University (Georgia) 3-2 in last weekend's opening round, and advanced to the round of 16 last winter. The team is led by 6-3 senior outside Cassidy Rea (.321, 403 kills) and 6-3 freshman Lexi Malone (119 blocks).

"Certainly, they bring experience and it's not a new thing for them," Hegerle said of the Warriors. "They've got some big players, they have good setters and do a lot of good things. They're going to be a challenge."

Finally, UJ wraps up pool play on Dec. 5 at 4 p.m. facing Columbia (27-5). The Cougars are making their 26th straight appearance in the national tournament, having received an opening-round bye. Columbia has won national championships in 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2015, and fell in five sets to Park (Missouri) in last year's national championship match in Sioux City.

The Cougars are led by freshman setter Luisa Ferreira (1,263 assists), 6-foot senior hitter Kiersten Anderson (378 kills, 60 aces) and 5-11 sophomore outside Sidney Branson (362 kills). UJ is 0-5 against Columbia dating back to 2008, last falling 3-2 to the Cougars at the 2016 Grand View Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa

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"They're a little different then they have been," Hegerle said of the Cougars. "They have a new coach (Allison Jones-Olson) this year and lost some of their big guns, so they're undersized. But again, they're in a really good conference with Missouri Baptist and Park, so they look like a tough team as well."

Hegerle said the Jimmies will be on the road for Sioux City by this Saturday. UJ, making its seventh total appearance at nationals in women's volleyball, went 2-1 in pool play last year before losing a one-set tiebreaker to Viterbo (Wisconsin), which ended the Jimmies' season at 24-9.

"It's not new to our players," Hegerle said. "We know what to expect, we've been through this and we've done well in the past."

NAIA Women's Volleyball Championship

At Tyson Events Center

Sioux City, Iowa

Pool Play (Pool H)

Dec. 3

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(8) University of Jamestown (29-4) vs. (RV) Xavier, Lousiana (31-6), 1 p.m.

(9) Columbia, Missouri (27-5) vs. (RV) Westmont, California (26-6), 3 p.m.

Dec. 4

Westmont vs. Jamestown, 2 p.m.

Xavier vs. Columba, 4 p.m.

Dec. 5

Westmont vs. Xavier, 2 p.m.

Jamestown vs. Columbia, 4 p.m.

UJ VB vs. BC jackie corina.jpg
The Jimmies' Jackie Meiklejohn sets a pass to Corina Ruud during play this season at Harold Newman Arena. Michael Savaloja / The Sun

Related Topics: VOLLEYBALL
Savaloja is the sports lead writer for The Jamestown Sun.
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