The Northwestern volleyball team had a nice break with some days off between regular play and tournament play but headed down to the Tyson Events Center to step back on the court this week in Sioux City. Tuesday marked the first day of the NAIA National Championship tournament, and the Red Raider ladies took the first seed in pool H. Their match-up was 25th ranked Marian of Indiana, and this is the first time NW volleyball has played this school.
The championship tournament consists of a total of 32 teams, and each is placed into eight pools of four teams. Every team plays each team in their pool, and the two best teams from each pool advance to a single-elimination round of the tournament. This 16-team round is set for Friday morning, and the last eight teams not eliminated will play Friday night in the quarterfinals – same knockout format. The four teams left for the semi-finals will play Saturday morning, and the championship match is set for 1 p.m. on Saturday night, Dec. 1.
NW fell to 25th ranked Marian 0-3 in their first head to head match-up in tournament play. In the first set, NW fell behind from the start but found forward momentum for a strong run to put them up 15-11. The four point advantage was the largest lead of the night for the Raiders, and it forced a timeout from the opposition. Marian gathered themselves in the time out, and after a short run from the Knights both teams traded points until they tied up at 21-21. The Raiders nearly took the win with a 24-22 lead, but the Knights found a comeback within them and pulled out a 26-24 win.
Over the next two sets, NW fell behind from the start. Throughout both sets the Raiders found energy to close the gap multiple times, but never pulled ahead. The Raiders fell 25-18 in the second set and 25-16 in the third.
NW hit less than their average at .178, as compared to a .292 from Marian. Lauryn Hilger led the Raiders with 11 kills, and Makenzie Fink had the second most with 10 kills.
The Raiders won their second match against McPherson in three sets on Wednesday and will play Rocky Mountain on Thursday to finish out their pool play. Their win Thursday determines their advancement to the single elimination round.