The first team in the history of University of Jamestown athletics to punch its ticket into a national semifinal is playing loose, elite and somehow isn't tired.
Jimmie women's volleyball dismantled the nation's No. 2-ranked team in Friday's NAIA national tournament quarterfinals in Sioux City, Iowa. Senior right-side hitter Isabel Wedell connected for a team-leading 15 kills for UJ, en route to an emphatic 3-1 match victory over recent Great Plains Athletic Conference nemesis Northwestern College (Iowa).
Jamestown has made it to the Final Four. The Jimmies will play 36-2 Marian (Indiana) in the national semifinals Saturday at 11 a.m. inside the Tyson Events Center.
"Our plan was just give it our all," said Wedell, via telephone call well past midnight Friday. "We have nothing to lose and they had everything to lose, so why not work as hard as we could and get after it?"
The 10 p.m. quarterfinal was won 25-23, 25-20, 27-29, 26-24, snapping UJ's eight straight losses to the Red Raiders, which included four consecutive 3-0 sweeps in GPAC play dating back to Jamestown's inaugural season as a member of the prestigious conference last fall.
The tireless Jimmies played nine sets on Friday, first defeating No. 10 Lindsey Wilson (Kentucky) 3-2 in the round of 16, following a 25-19 late-night pool play tiebreak victory over No. 9 Columbia College on Thursday. Wedell said Jamestown has plenty of fight remaining for NAIA volleyball's final day of the year.
The NAIA championship match will unfold Saturday at 7 p.m. Westmont (California) and No. 6-ranked Viterbo (Wisconsin) will decide Saturday's second semifinal match, which also gets underway at 11 a.m.
"The whole week has been a grind. We've had a game every day, to two (games) a day," Wedell said. "We just gotta keep going, doing what we're doing.
"We got this."
Jamestown weathered a brilliant, 29-kill performance turned in by Northwestern's first-team All-American junior Anna Wedel. But tied at 24-24 in the fourth and final set, Wedel's fifth hitting error of the match proved costly.
UJ sophomore setter Jackie Meiklejohn found junior Corina Ruud for the match-point kill shortly thereafter.
"One of our mottos is the best is yet to come ... and it played out," said UJ women's volleyball coach Jon Hegerle in an interview with AM 1400 ESPN Jamestown. "We just keep getting better and better and better, and better."
"What a great, great experience for our players."
Tied at 23-23 in set No. 1, UJ senior middle Britta Knudson scored a kill and teamed up with sophomore Taylor Sabinash to block Wedel for set point. Jamestown closed the second set on a 6-1 run to roll by five points, receiving back-to-back Izzy Wedell service aces before Jordan Thomas punched the set-point kill.
Jamestown fought back from deficits of 19-15 and 24-21 in the fourth before falling in extras 29-27. Knudson finished with 12 kills and Thomas 11. UJ setters Miranda Lowman (30 assists) and Meiklejohn (23) combined for 53 assists, and Wedell, Lowman and Hannah Schiele each scored two of UJ's nine ace serves.
Holen and Sydney Ellingson paced UJ defensively with 16 and 15 digs, respectively.
"Britta came up big at the end, and Corina came up big at the end ... Syd Ellingson passed nails today," Hegerle said. "It's just unbelievable."
Westmont (30-7) defeated No. 1-ranked Park (Missouri) 3-2 in Friday's quarterfinals. The No. 11-ranked Marian Knights rolled No. 4-ranked Missouri Baptist 3-0.
Now having reached farther than any other UJ sports team that came before them, Wedell said the Jimmies plan to stick to its winning formula.
"Grit and have fun," Wedell said. "When we play lighthearted and just laugh at each other, that's when we play our best -- when we come together."
(8) University of Jamestown 3, (2) Northwestern College 1
UJ 25 25 27 26
NC 23 20 29 24
UJ -- Kills: Isabel Wedell 15, Britta Knudson 12, Jordan Thomas 11, Taylor Sabinash 7, Ellie Michaletz 6, Corina Ruud 6, Anna Holen 4, Miranda Lowman 2. Assists: Lowman 30, Jackie Meiklejohn 23, Holen, Knudson, Hannah Schiele. Aces: Wedell 2, Lowman 2, Schiele 2, Meiklejohn, Sydney Ellingson. Digs: Holen 16, Ellingson 15, Schiele 9, Meiklejohn 8, Knudson 6, Lowman 6, Thomas 4, Wedell, Sabinash, Michaletz, Ruud. Blocks: Ruud 4.5, Knudson 2, Sabinash 1.5, Wedell 1.5, Thomas 0.5.
NC -- Kills: Anna Wedel 29, Jessica Harald 9, Emily Van Ginkel 8, AJ Kacmarynski 7, Bekah Horstman 7, Lacey Wacker 4, Bri Kleinwolterink. Assists: Wacker 51. Aces: Madison Hofman 3, Kleinwolterink 2, Kacmarynski 2, Emily Strasser. Digs: Strasser 22, Wacker 13, Bri Kleinwolterink 10, Ann Pater 10, Wedel 7. Blocks: Van Ginkel 2.5, Wedel 1.5, Hosrtman 1.5, Harald 1.5.
Records: Jamestown 33-5. Northwestern 32-2.