Jimmies top Cougars at nationals, fate pending
The residual effect of defeating Viterbo University continued to carry the University of Jamestown women's volleyball team on Thursday, Nov. 29, in Sioux City, Iowa.
Up 1-0 in the match and trailing Saint Xavier (Ill.) 21-14 in the second frame on the final day of NAIA national championship pool play at Tyson Events Center, Jamestown junior outside hitter Jordan Thomas said nary a single moment of panic was felt by the Jimmies.
"We were still riding that high of beating Viterbo, our rival," said Thomas, whose Jimmies thwarted a 10-match losing streak to the V-Hawks with a 3-0 sweep of their former North Star Athletic Association rival on Wednesday. "Down 21-14, coach just looked at us on the bench and said, 'We've got this.'
"After what happened yesterday, nothing could stop us."
And, just like that, 24th-ranked Jamestown rifled off a 10-3 run to tie the set at 24-24, and Thomas scored her only two kills of the match in overtime to help the Jimmies steal the frame in the 62nd rally, 32-30. Jamestown eventually swept Saint Xavier—28-26, 32-30, 25-13—but after going 2-1 in pool play, the Jimmies' fate was still yet to be decided by late Thursday.
Viterbo defeated Southern Oregon 3-2 later in the day, which sends the Jimmies and the V-Hawks to a single-set tiebreaker scheduled for approximately 10 p.m. this evening. The winner advances to Friday's round of 16 elimination bracket as the second seed from Pool G, where Northwestern (Iowa), the top seed of Pool H at 26-8 overall, will be waiting for a 9 a.m. loser-out contest.
Southern Oregon advanced as Pool G's top seed at 2-1. The top two teams from each of the eight, four-team pools in competition move on to the final round of 16.
The Jimmies are searching for a second consecutive trip to the round of 16. Advancing further would be unchartered territory for Jimmie women's volleyball.
Jimmie women's volleyball coach Jon Hegerle was relieved his team managed to weather the storm, so to speak, against Chicago-based Saint Xavier. The Jimmies hit .320 and played largely error-free in Wednesday's 3-0 rout of Viterbo, and a follow-up performance anywhere close to that would've been a tall order.
"The law of averages says we're probably not going to play that crisp," Hegerle said. "We didn't pass as well, or serve as tough. There were times where we could have really gotten down on ourselves, but we continued to play blue collar and battled when things didn't go our way."
Jamestown failed to put away the Cougars in set 1 after leading 12-8 and 17-4. But tied at 26-26, the Jimmies' Britta Knudson and Kori Buchanan teammed up to block the Cougars' Helena Atton following an Xavier attacking error to come away with the 28-26 victory.
Both teams struggled with errors in the second set, and after Thomas' two crucial kills down the stretch—and a third scored by sophomore Jayla Ritter—back-to-back attacking errors committed by Xavier's Alex Lambros handed the frame over to Jamestown 32-30.
Thomas, from nearby Pingree, was the high school Region 3 volleyball senior athlete of the year for Medina-Pingree-Buchanan in 2015. She attended every volleyball camp offered by UJ and Hegerle prior to signing on the dotted line for the Jimmies.
"Growing up I always went to UJ matches and watched (former UJ middle blocker) Sarah Becker and the Jimmies do what they do," Thomas said. "I went to all the minicamps and it all kinda shaped me into the volleyball player that I was then."
The second-set loss was too much for Saint Xavier to endure. Jamestown hit .364 and opened up a 20-8 lead in the third before eventually winning by 12.
"When you keep battling and battling, eventually a team just cracks. You could see it happen," Hegerle said. "I just thought it was a really gritty effort by our players."
Isabel Wedell and Ellie Michaletz led the Jimmies with eight kills each. Miranda Lowman (19) and Jackie Meiklejohn (12) teammed up for 31 assists, while Julina Niemeier paced Jamestown's 83-dig effort with 24.
"We're playing the best we have played all year. This is what we've been building up to," Thomas said. "That Viterbo game showed us who we really are. We made a statement, and I think if we get into that sweet 16 we're only going to continue to surprise people."
NAIA Women's Volleyball National Championship Pool Play
At Sioux City, Iowa
(24) Jamestown 3, (RV) Saint Xavier 0
UJ 28 32 25
SX 26 30 13
UJ—Kills: Isabel Wedell 8, Ellie Michaletz 8, Kennedy Conzemius 7, Corina Ruud 5, Britta Knudson 4, Miranda Lowman 3, Jordan Thomas 2, Anna Holen 2, Kori Buchanan 2, Jayla Ritter. Assists: Miranda Lowman 19, Jackie Meiklejohn 12, Julina Niemeier 3, Ruud. Aces: Buchanan 2, Meiklejohn. Digs: Niemeier 24, Holen 14, Meiklejohn 14, Lowman 11, Sydney Ellingson 7, Ruud 3, Michaletz 2, Wedell 2, Knudson 2, Ritter, Conzemius, Buchanan, Thomas. Blocks: Knudson 6, Wedell 4, Ruud 3, Conzemius 2, Holen, Buchanan.
SX—Kills: Kate Bontrager 11, Helena Atton 10, Sara Wellbaum 8, Alex Lambros 6, Cassidy Wyman 3, Jessica Belseth 2. Assists: Wyman 33. Aces: Bontrager 2, Lambros, Grace Murphy, Emily Mayer. Digs: Murphy 22, Bontrager 15, Wyman 12, Mayer 12, Belseth 11, Atton 3, Lambros 2, Wellbaum. Blocks: Lambros 4, Wyman 2, Belseth, Wellbaum, Atton.
Records: Jamestown 24-9. Saint Xavier 28-12.