The bright lights of the NAIA women's volleyball national tournament weren't too bright for University of Jamestown sophomore Hannah Schiele on Tuesday, Dec. 3.
The defensive specialist scored a match-high 19 digs during the Jimmies 3-1 victory over Xavier University of Louisiana at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. Schiele, who began her college career last season on the Jimmies' JV squad, ended her prep career for Jamestown High School on the floor of the Class A state championship match in 2017.
The past experience served the former all-state Schiele well.
"It was kinda like state in high school, with the lights and everything," Schiele said. "It was unbelievable to be on a court like this."
Jamestown frustrated the Gold Nuggets defensively, limiting them to an attacking percentage of .142 on 155 total attacks behind 77 digs. UJ sophomore Anna Holen (16 digs), junior Sydney Ellingson (14) and sophomore Jackie Meiklejohn (11) all hit double figures with Schiele.
"We scouted their hitters and figured out their spots. So we went in kinda knowing how they worked and just told ourselves we gotta play our game," Schiele said. "Nothing fancy, don't add any pressure, just play what Jimmie volleyball is."
Jimmie volleyball this season has also included a heavy dose of senior middle blocker Britta Knudson. Knudson led the match with 14 kills, committing just a single error on 23 attacks (.565), with two stuff blocks and four block assists.
Knudson, holding true to form, ranks inside the NAIA's top 10 in total blocks, blocks per game and hitting percentage this season. UJ sailed 25-18, 25-22 in the opening two sets, before falling 23-25 in the third and taking the match 25-17 in the fourth.
"We started out pretty strong in the first couple sets and then, I don't know, we kinda let our guard down I'd say a little bit in the third," Knudson said. "But we came out strong in the fourth again because we wanted to win."
Since sweeping to the Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament championship 3-0 over College of Saint Mary on Nov. 16, the Jimmies sat idle for 16 days. Any rust wasn't immediately visible, as the Jimmies hit .259 as a team.
UJ setters Miranda Lowman (30 assists, career high) and Jackie Meiklejohn (20) combined for 50 assists, while Taylor Sabinash (11 kills), Ellie Michaletz (10) and Corina Ruud (10) all hit for 10 or more kills. Kayla Black, a 5-foot-9 junior, led the Nuggets with 10 kills.
"Honestly, I was kinda nervous with how it was going to go," Knudson said. "But getting back into the intense, get-after-it mode, I think we did a good job with that. We were more excited to come out and play, rather than scared and timid."
Knudson alluded to the fact that the Jimmies have been here before. The top seed in Pool H, Jamestown (30-4) is making its fourth consecutive appearance at nationals, reaching the 16-team elimination bracket in 2017.
Up next for the eighth-ranked Jimmies in pool play is the Westmont University (California) Warriors (27-6). Westmont blew past ninth-ranked Columbia, Missouri (27-6) 3-0 on Tuesday in pool play.
The Warriors have a pair of 6-foot-3 athletes in senior right-side hitter Cassidy Rea and freshman middle hitter Lexi Malone. UJ head coach Jon Hegerle said the Jimmies will need to pass and serve well.
"They're playing with a lot of confidence right now, a lot of energy," Hegerle said. "We're going to have to keep them out of system. If we can do that then things will go well.
"We didn't play nearly as well as we're capable (Tuesday)," Hegerle added. "But in the same token that was a tough team we played. I think we had 10 hitting errors in set three and you can't have that many. But it was good to get a win and move on."
The Jimmies and the Warriors play Wednesday at 2 p.m. Xavier and Columbia will play at 4 p.m. The top two teams will advance to Friday's round of 16.
"I think we just have to play for us and know that we can do it," Knudson said. "Just have confidence in that and play freely and loosely, because that's when we play our best."
NAIA Women's Volleyball Championship
At Tyson Events Center, Sioux City, Iowa
(8) University of Jamestown 3, (RV) Xavier University of Louisiana 1
XULA 18 22 25 17
UJ 25 25 23 25
XULA -- Kills: Ema Causevic 11, Kayla Black 10, Bria Mayes 9, Taylor McGee 7, Maya Smith 4, Jaida owd 2, Zora Barnett, Tiffany Phillips. Assists: Eva Le Guillou 21, Tiffany Phillips 17. Aces: Causevic 3, Black 2, Guillou, Vivica Price-Spraggins, Jennifer Torres. Digs: Torres 15, Guillou 12, Black 11, McGee 10. Blocks: Mayes 5, Price-Spraggins 4, Smith 4, Causevic 3, Barnett 2, McGee 2.
UJ -- Kills: Britta Knudson 14, Taylor Sabinash 11, Ellie Michaletz 10, Corina Ruud 10, Isabel Wedell 8, Anna Holen 3, Jordan Thomas 2, Miranda Lowman 2, Jackie Meiklejohn. Assists: Lowman 30, Meiklejohn 20, Holen 2, Hannah Schiele 2, Knudson, Wedell, Thomas. Aces: Schiele 2, Meiklejohn 2, Wedell, Lowman, Digs: Schiele 19, Holen 16, Sydney Ellingson 14, Meiklejohn 12, Wedell 6, Lowman 5, Thomas 2, Michaletz 2, Knudson. Blocks: Knudson 6, Sabinash 3, Wedell, Ruud.
Records: Jamestown 30-4. Xavier 31-7.
(RV) Westmont (California) 3, (9) Columbia (Missouri) 0: 25-21, 25-21, 25-22.
Westmont (27-6) vs. Jamestown (30-4), 2 p.m.
Xavier (31-7) vs. Columbia (27-6), 4 p.m.
Westmont vs. Xavier, 2 p.m.
Jamestown vs. Columbia, 4 p.m.