SIOUX CITY, IOWA -- University of Jamestown senior libero Sydney Ellingson won't be returning to Jimmie volleyball next season.
In lieu of an extra season of eligibility granted by the NAIA because of the pandemic, Ellingson has already lined up a graduate school opportunity at the University of Mary in Bismarck, where she's planning to be a graduate assistant in the school's exercise physiology program.
For the last 12 weeks, Ellingson was a member of the No. 1-ranked women's volleyball team in the country. An incredible ride that wasn't supposed to end Friday at the Tyson Event Center.
Jamestown lost 3-1 to Great Plains Athletic Conference rival Midland University in the NAIA national tournament semifinals. The Warriors, the No. 5 seed for the GPAC conference tournament held earlier this month in Jamestown, is moving on to play Missouri Baptist in Saturday's national title match at 7 p.m.
"I'm going to remember the bus rides, the relationships ... what we went through together and what we built together," said Ellingson, one of two UJ seniors along with middle hitter Corina Huff. "It's not about what happened tonight. It's about what we've been building and building and working for, and it's about our team and how much love we have for each other."
The Jimmies reached -- and fell -- in last year's national semifinal round as well, but unlike that four-set loss to eventual national champion Marian University, Indiana, Friday's match lacked a certain energy.
Jamestown won the opening set 25-21 with a solid contingency of Jimmie fans in attendance, but something just felt flat. Jimmie head coach Jon Hegerle -- who won his 300th career match in Thursday's quarterfinals -- felt that, too.
"I kept getting up to cheer and I kept saying to (UJ assistant coach) Jake (Fulsom), 'Our faces are blank, we don't look excited. We're not getting fired up for anything,'" Hegerle said. "What was missing? I don't know?"
UJ had the Warriors pinned against the wall up one set to none and leading the second 23-20 when three UJ attacking errors contributed to a 6-1 Midland rally in a 26-24 victory for the Warriors. In the third, Jamestown staved off five attempts at set-point by the Warriors, who finally won a momentum-swinging 30-28 game.
In the finale, five service aces by the Warriors -- two consecutive from junior outside Brooke Fredrickson -- contributed to a 15-5 Warriors start in a no-doubt fourth set. The win was the Warriors' fifth-straight since falling to Jamestown 3-1 in the semifinals of the conference tournament on April 7 in Jamestown.
"That's a different team than we played twice earlier this year," said Ellingson, whose Jimmies also defeated Midland 3-1 during the regular season. "They were on fire tonight and it had a lot to do with us. We couldn't find our us."
The Warriors only hit .127 in the match, but Taliyah Flores (14 kills), Fredrickson (11), Sydney Morehouse (11), and Maggie Hiatt (10) seemed unstoppable at times. The Warriors also sent a crushing 11 aces to the floor, led by Fredrickson with four.
"They're a great team and they beat us at our own game," Hegerle said. "They out-served us, they out-passed us, they out-defended us; out-blocked us. But that has a lot to do with the first two: serving and passing."
Midland could do neither in the opening set, with 12 attacking errors (.022 hitting) in UJ's four-point win.
"The stat of the night? Halfway through game 2 we had 27 errors," said Midland coach Paul Giesselman. "We scored 27 points for Jamestown. They're ranked No. 1 in the country for a reason. They're a great team -- great coach -- you can't help them out."
But as poorly as Jamestown forced Midland to play, the Warriors only trailed the second 20-19 before rifling off the win behind UJ's own attacking woes. The Jimmies hit .119 with 29 attacking errors on 159 attempts.
"We started playing Midland volleyball," Giesselmann said. "We were playing great defense, scoring quick in transition and we picked up our passing and serving."
UJ junior outside Anna Holen led the Jimmies with 12 kills, while Kalli Hegerle added 11, and freshman Nicole Schmitz turned in nine. Ellingson and Holen each finished with 22 digs, while junior middle Jayla Ritter posted another solid night defensively with 5 1/2 blocks.
"Sometimes things just aren't meant to be," coach Hegerle said. "Game 2 is the one for me. That's the game we should've won."
Missouri Baptist defeated Dordt -- the GPAC's third team in the final four and fifth in the quarterfinals -- 3-2 Friday night: 25-20, 25-15, 14-25, 19-25, 15-13.
"You play any of these (GPAC) teams 10 times, you don't beat them 10 times," Hegerle said. "Midland played tremendously tonight. They really had an answer for almost everything we did, but I'm proud of the players. They've done some things that no one's ever done.
"Yeah, this hurt ... but we wouldn't do anything differently."
The Jimmies, playing in a fifth consecutive national tournament and eighth under Hegerle, are poised to make yet another deep playoff run in the fall with the bulk of its roster returning and untapped talent still developing on the deepest team present in Sioux City this week.
"Whether we win a national championship or not does not define us," Hegerle said. "What defines us is how we relate with each other and what we've learned through this process and how we go about our business. I couldn't be prouder of that.
"We always say the best is yet to come. We'll just keep moving forward."
(12) Midland University 3, (1) University of Jamestown 1
MU 21 26 30 25
UJ 25 24 28 12
MU -- Kills: Taliya Flores 14, Brooke Fredrickson 11, Sydney Morehouse 11, Maggie Hiatt 10, Lauryn Samuelson 4, Hope Leimbach, Jaisa Russell. Leimbach 46, Flores, Russell. Aces: Fredrickson 4, Russell 3, Flores, Kaitlynn Simon, MacKenzie Sempeck, Maggie Sempeck. Digs: Russell 19, Flores 16, Leimbach 13, Simon 8, Fredrickson 6, Maggie Sempeck 3, MacKenzie Sempeck 2. Blocks: Samuelson 1.5, Hiatt 1.5, Morehouse 1, Fredrickson .5, Flores .5.
UJ -- Kills: Anna Holen 12, Kallie Hegerle 11, Nicole Schmitz 9, Corina Huff 7, Taylor Sabinash 6, Jayla Ritter 2, Megan Gaffaney. Assists: Jackie Meiklejohn 21, Gaffaney 20, Hannah Schiele 2, Sabinash. Aces: Schiele 2, Sydney Ellingson. Digs: Holen 22, Ellingson 22, Schiele 9, Gaffaney 3, Meiklejohn 2, Huff 2, Sabinash 2, Hegerle 2, Ellie Holen 2, Schmitz. Blocks: Riter 5.5, Hegerle 2.5, Sabinash 2, Huff 2, Holen.
Records: Midland 16-9. Jamestown 30-2.