The fight contained within University of Jamestown's Isabel Wedell is strong.
Wedell, or "Izzy" to those in her circle, found out Wednesday that her Jimmie women's volleyball team is ranked higher than it ever has been before, and the senior right-side hitter from Ellendale is not satisfied. The Jimmies jumped seven spots to No. 13 in the latest NAIA women's volleyball top 25 coaches' poll, surpassing the team's previous high of No. 15 set in 2017.
"It's a huge accomplishment," said Wedell. "But a part of me is a little disappointed as well because, honestly, I think we are better than the 13th spot.
"But we have a whole season to prove it and this was a good incentive to keep pushing and working hard."
UJ has been proving its worth thus far at destinations across the nation, barreling to a 4-1 record against teams ranked inside the preseason top 25. Jamestown (10-2 overall) has defeated Vanguard (California), Southern Oregon, Aquinas College (Michigan) and Great Plains Athletic Conference powerhouse Dordt University, part of a rigorous early-season schedule that included tournaments in Oregon, Nebraska and Wisconsin.
Southern Oregon (11-1) has since moved up from No. 10 to No. 8 in the latest poll, while Vanguard (10-2) and Dordt (8-4) remain inside the top 25 and Aquinas (3-6) has dropped out. The Jimmies have weathered losses against Southwestern Assemblies of God, Texas, (8-3) and Viterbo Univesity (13-3).
Southwestern Assemblies of God, or SAGU, is receiving votes in the current poll, while Viterbo is ranked No. 6.
"We go to tournaments at the beginning of the season with the idea that we are going to play hard teams right away and figure out where we are," said Wedell. "That's what we did and the conference that we are in is only gonna keep preparing us for nationals."
Currently, the GPAC boasts seven teams either ranked inside the top 25 or receiving votes, led by No. 2 Northwestern (12-0), No. 9 Midland (8-3) and the Jimmies. The Jimmies resume conference play this weekend at Mount Marty College (6-8) on Friday and Dakota Wesleyan (10-1) on Saturday, before hosting Briar Cliff (10-3) on Sept. 21.
The Jimmies finished fifth in the conference standings last season, en route to a third-straight appearance in the NAIA national tournament.
"I think we are going to surprise a lot of teams with the amount of fight that we have," said Wedell. "No matter what, this team just doesn't give up."
Wedell is already sitting at 100 kills for UJ in her senior campaign, complementing senior middle Britta Knudson's 118 kills and 57 total blocks. Setters Miranda Lowman (227) and Jackie Meiklejohn (214) have combined for 441 helpers through 12 matches and junior libero Sydney Ellingson has a team-high 189 digs.
Wedell, Knudson, Lowman, Meiklejohn and Ellingson are five of 10 home-grown, North Dakota varsity athletes suiting up for UJ head coach Jon Hegerle and the Jimmies in 2019. Knudson, a former Bismarck Century High School standout, is currently ranked No. 4 in the NAIA in hitting percentage (.370) and No. 6 in total blocks.
"I think it says a lot about North Dakota in general and the type of people it's raising," said Wedell. "These girls used to be my rivals and now that we are teammates we push each other in a way that other teammates that didn't know each other can't do.
"I love playing with them and wouldn't trade it."
NAIA Women's Volleyball Coaches' Top 25 Poll
(First-place votes in parenthesis)
Team Rec. Points
1. Missouri Baptist (11) 11-3 577
2. Northwestern, Iowa (9) 12-0 564
3. Park, Mo. (3) 8-1 557
4. Indiana Wesleyan 12-0 536
5. Southern Oregon 11-1 451
6. Viterbo, Wis. 13-3 473
7. Grand View, Iowa 6-5 463
8. Eastern Oregon 11-1 451
9. Midland, Neb. 8-3 439
10. Lindsey Wilson, Ky. 8-2 438
11. Corban, Ore. 5-3 382
12. Columbia, Mo. 6-2 376
13. Jamestown, N.D. 10-2 366
14T. Central Methodist, Mo. 11-2 323
14T. Bellevue, Neb. 10-3 323
16. Providence, Mont. 9-1 322
17. Westmont, Calif. 10-2 315
18. Montana Tech 12-2 261
19. Dordt, Iowa 8-4 250
20. College of Idaho 6-3 232
21. Vanguard, Calif. 10-2 205
22. Marian, Ind. 10-0 196
23. Rocky Mountain, Mont. 8-4 195
24. Oklahoma City 8-1 114
25T. College of Saint Mary, Neb. 15-3 112
25T. The Master's, Calif. 6-5 112
Others receiving votes: Saint Francis (Ind.) 84, Morningside (Iowa) 71, Lawrence Tech (Mich.) 46, Evangel (Mo.) 43, Embry-Riddle (Ariz.) 35, Reinhardt (Ga.) 28, Ottawa (Kan.) 20, SAGU (Texas) 11, Aquinas (Mich.) 10, Doane (Neb.) 3.