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TOP COMPETITION: Defenders defeat Jimmies in three

University of Jamestown's Kennedy Conzemius slaps the ball across to Ema Altena (12) and Leah Kamp of Dordt College Tuesday night at Newman Arena. John M. Steiner / The Sun1 / 3
University of Jamestown's Kori Buchanan gets a kill past Jamie De Jager of Dordt College Tuesday night at Newman Arena. John M. Steiner / The Sun2 / 3
University of Jamestown's Anna Holen celebrates a point scored Tuesday night against Dordt College at Newman Arena. John M. Steiner / The Sun3 / 3

The Dordt College Defenders have played in back-to-back NAIA women's volleyball national tournament championship matches, and it was easy to see as to why Tuesday night at Harold Newman Arena.

Dordt, along with its first team All-Americans Ema Altena on the outside and Jamie De Jager directing the offense from the setter position, frustrated University of Jamestown for three sets. The eighth-ranked Defenders used relentless pressure and a seemingly telepathic offensive at times to cruise 25-18, 25-22, 25-22 over the Jimmies.

Altena and De Jager were announced as the NAIA's attacker and setter of the week, respectively, earlier in the day Tuesday. Altena added 10 kills to go along with the 50 she dished out during Dordts' three victories last week, which included a 3-1 win over fourth-ranked Viterbo, while De Jager added 36 assists on to a string of 130.

"Going to nationals in general is our goal, but we're not there yet," said the 6-foot Altena, whose Defenders have played in four of the last five national tournaments. "We like to take it one day at a time. We have our sights on nationals, but then we'll see how it plays out from there."

Dordt (18-2, 11-0 GPAC) was firing offensively from the start, receiving kills from Altena, Leah Kamp, Jessi De Jager and Julia Lindbergh to stake a 10-3 advantage and eventually lead by nine in the 25-18 set 1 victory. But the Jimmies didn't back down, especially on the block.

Kennedy Conzemius, Britta Knudson and the UJ block stuffed Altena twice midway through the second, as the Jimmies played to ties at 16-16 and 19-19. But a Jimmie service error put the Defenders out front late and Altena scored three of her team's final four points via kill.

"I thought we did a really good job of slowing down (Altena)," said Jimmie coach Jon Hegerle. "We blocked her a number of times and slowed the ball down. But their setter is so good. Their hitters don't have to guess where the ball is gonna be."

Kundson finished with four total blocks for the Jimmies, while Conzemius, Jayla Ritter and Isabel Wedell each posted three more.

"Jamestown's a great team. They've got really good athletes," Altena said, as the Defenders won their 12th straight match. "We played them before, so we knew coming in they were going play scrappy and give us a run for our money."

The final frame was a wild one toward the finish, but tied at 19-19 an Altena kill kicked of a 6-3 Dordt run to the finish. The Defenders have lost just 10 sets in 2018 and also swept the Jimmies 3-0 in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Sept. 21.

"I was proud of how hard we competed," Hegerle said. "We played at their level, but the difference is they're comfortable at their level and we're uncomfortable at that level.

"That's the next step with an inexperienced, young group of players."

Knudson's seven kills led the Jimmies, as did Miranda Lowman's 14 assists and Julina Niemeier's 17 digs. Anna Holen add 14 digs for the Jimmies.

Tuesday's action was the first of three straight home matches for the Jimmies. Jamestown (16-6, 6-5 GPAC) hosts Morningside this Saturday, Oct. 13, at 5 p.m., and invites Dakota Wesleyan to Newman Arena on Oct. 17.

"We know we're a good volleyball team and we've got to continue to be persistent in trying to break through to that next level," Hegerle said. "The great thing about this conference is we get chances to do that all the time."

(8) Dordt College 3, (RV) Jamestown 1

DC 25 25 25

UJ 18 22 22

DC—Kills: Ema Altena 10, Leah Kamp 10, Julia Lindbergh 8, Jessi De Jager 6, Lydia Smith 6, Jamie De Jager 5. Assists: Jamie De Jager 36. Aces: Jamie De Jager 2. Digs: Aubrey Drake 19, Altena 13, Erica Bousema 12, Jamie De Jager 8, Hannah Connelly 7.

UJ—Kills: Britta Knudson 7, Isabel Wedell 6, Kennedy Conzemius 5, Jayla Ritter 5, Ellie Michaletz 3, Kori Buchanan 2, Anna Holen 1, Jackie Mieklejohn 1. Assists: Miranda Lowman 14, Meiklejohn 10. Aces: Buchanan 1. Digs: Julina Niemmeier 17, Holen 14, Meiklejohn 8, Lowman 7, Sydney Ellingson 3. Blocks: Knudson 4, Conzemius 3, Ritter 3, Wedell 3.

Records: Dordt College 18-2, 11-0 GPAC. Jamestown 16-6, 6-5.

Michael Savaloja

Hometown: Churchs Ferry, N.D.; College: North Dakota

A recipient of the NDHSCA Award of Merit, Savaloja has been reporting sports for The Sun since 2008.

Follow on Twitter: @MichaelSavaloja

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