Northwestern College women's volleyball put the band back together this season, so to speak.
Junior All-Americans Anna Wedel and A.J. Kacmarynski have helped lead the Red Raiders to 23 straight victories after both received medical redshirts in 2018. Wedel, a transfer to Northwestern from NCAA Division I Iowa State, scored 11 kills and three blocks in the No. 2-ranked Red Raiders' 3-0 sweep over No. 11 Jamestown on Monday at Harold Newman Arena.
Northwestern scored three solo blocks and 20 block assists, unofficially, as Wedel and Co. frustrated an otherwise admirable performance turned in by the Jimmies. The opening set saw a thrilling 62 rallies, with the Red Raiders edging the Jimmies 32-30.
"It's a point that we always want to emphasize in practice and keep working on," said the 6-foot outside Wedel on her team's blocking. "With our length, we just wanna do everything that we can to use it."
A broken foot four matches into the 2018 season put Wedel on the shelf, and the 6-1 Kacmarynski was lost simultaneously to a torn muscle in her abdomen as Northwestern rolled to the national tournament's round of 16 and a record of 26-9. Back in the rotation this fall with All-American setter Lacey Wacker, all-conference right side Makenzie Fisk (6-1), all-conference middle Emily Van Ginkel (6-0) and GPAC freshman of the year Bekah Horstman (6-2), and the Red Raiders have so far been the class of the GPAC and beyond.
The unbeaten Red Raiders should be ranked No. 1 in this week's NAIA top 25 coaches' poll, which is set to be released Wednesday. Top-ranked Missouri Baptist has 25 wins to four losses.
"They hardly have any weaknesses," University of Jamestown women's volleyball coach Jon Hegerle said of Northwestern. "A lot of times you get big, athletic teams that don't ball control well or don't pass well. I do think we're a better passing and defensive team, but they have an All-American setter so they don't have to be quite as precise as we have to.
"With those hitters? Just throw the ball in their orbit and watch out."
Both teams hit close to .300 in the opening frame, and a 5-0 Northwestern run was countered with a 3-0 Jamestown rally to tie the set at 22-22. The Jimmies had four attempts at set-point before a Wedel kill was followed by a double contact called on UJ, ending the madness at 32-30.
Jamestown hit -0.021 in the second (11 kills, 12 errors, 47 attempts) and was thwarted by Northwestern's block on numerous occasions. A 4-0 spurt by the Red Raiders broke a 9-9 tie and Northwestern never looked back.
Jamestown jumped on arguably the nation's best team 12-6 in the third, with UJ's Corina Ruud and Anna Holen each finding the floor twice for kills, while also teaming up to score a pair of blocks. But six Northwestern kills, two by Wedel, sparked a 9-3 run that knotted the frame at 15-15.
"It's truly just a joy to play with these girls, and everybody is happy for each other," said Wedel, who finished with 11 kills. "When one person has a better game and one person doesn't, we're there to pick each other up."
Tied at 23-23, back-to-back attacking errors by the Jimmies ended the match. Ruud led the Jimmies with 10 kills.
"It's what we want," Ruud said on facing the nation's best. "We want to play high competition. That's what volleyball's all about."
Jamestown (20-4, 8-2 GPAC) snapped a five-match winning streak. The Jimmies host Doane (15-9, 6-5) on Friday at Hastings (9-12, 4-7) on Saturday.
"It's a step to create an opportunity, and it's another step to take advantage of that," Hegerle said. "We created opportunities, we just weren't able to take advantage of it."
"Jamestown is a really, really talented team and we knew that it'd be a dogfight," Wedel said. "It's awesome here. It's a great atmosphere."
(2) Northwestern College 3, (11) University of Jamestown 0
NC 32 25 25
UJ 30 17 23
Northwestern -- Kills: Makenzie Fink 13, Anna Wedel 11, Emily Van Ginkel 6, Bekah Hortsman 6, A.J. Kacmarynski 4, Lacey Wacker 3. Assists: Wacker 22. Aces: Kacmarynski 2. Digs: Emily Strasser 11, Wedel 9, Kacmarynski 8, Fink 7, Bri Kleinwolterink 6, Wacker 5. Blocks: Hortsman 7, Van Ginkel 6, Wacker 5, Wedel 3, Kacmarynski, Fink.
Jamestown -- Kills: Corina Ruud 10, Britta Knudson 9, Jordan Thomas 7, Anna Holen 6, Isabel Wedell 4, Ellie Michaletz 5, Taylor Sabinash 3. Assists: Miranda Lowman 17, Jackie Meiklejohn 12. Aces: Lowman. Digs: Hannah Schiele 15, Sydney Ellingson 14, Meiklejohn 9, Holen 7, Lowman 6. Blocks: Sabinash 4, Holen 3, Ruud 3, Knudson 1.
Records: Northwestern 23-0, 11-0 GPAC. Jamestown 20-4, 8-2.