The Jimmies will be walking into the great unknown this week.
The University of Jamestown men's volleyball team will be hosting the first-ever Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) men's volleyball tournament Friday and Saturday at Newman Arena. The Jimmies will open the tournament Friday facing Morningside in the semifinals at 7 p.m.
"We're excited," UJ head coach Riley Salmon said. "It's kind of uncharted territory for us because we've never been in this situation as a program.
"We're going in as the favorite. We want to win it. We want to advance to the national tournament."
The Jimmies have rifled off a near-perfect season under the second-year head coach, going 18-2 overall and 6-0 in the GPAC. Both of the Jimmies' losses came against Grand View University.
"Grand View is the No. 1 team in the country," Salmon said. "They haven't lost a match and we're actually the only team that has taken them even to five sets. If we are playing at our highest level we can compete with anybody. Over the last six weeks, our guys have hit a stride and the confidence is now coming."
The Jimmies' confidence should be pretty high during the opening round of the tournament. The Mustangs fell to the Jimmies four times during the regular season, all in straight sets.
"I think anything less than winning the tournament would be a disappointment for us," Salmon said. "We have put in a lot of time, we have a lot of data and film on our opponents. We've played our opponents very well this year."
Salmon said the team returned to practice last week after a few days off following the conclusion of the regular season. The head coach is keeping his team focused on what they have done all season long while giving more attention to serving aggressively and working on out-of-system swings at the net. Salmon said fans should expect a lot of hard-hitting and skilled offensive work this weekend.
"I anticipate that our gymnasium will be loud and I really expect us to put on quite a show," Salmon said. "We are really excited to get to host this event ... we just want to share it with our community. We have to stay focused on every single point and not looking ahead to say, the national tournament."
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Men's Volleyball tournament is slated to be held April 19-24 in Des Moines, Iowa. In order to be one of the 12 teams competing for a national title, UJ has to win the GPAC tournament. Once in Des Moines, teams will be divided into four pools of three teams. A team must win their pool to advance to the NAIA semifinals.
"I don't want to say that we can win a national championship because it's uncharted territory for us, but we do have a bunch of players who have a really high skill set," Salmon said. "If we are playing well, we can definitely play with anybody in the NAIA."
Men's Volleyball Tournament
At Harold Newman Arena
(Tournament seeding/records in parentheses)
(3) Ottawa (5-7) vs. (2) Dordt (7-10), 5 p.m.
(4) Morningside (2-10) vs. (1) Jamestown (18-2), 7 p.m.
Championship: Semifinal Winners, 6 p.m.