SIOUX CITY, IOWA – Midland University suffered its first loss at the NAIA volleyball tournament on Thursday.
After starting pool play 2-0, Midland fell to Westmont (California) 25-12, 25-16, 31-29 at the Tyson Events Center. Prior to Thursday’s match, Midland and Westmont were already assured of advancing to Friday’s single-elimination tournament as both had compiled a 2-0 record in Pool F.
Midland coach Paul Giesselmann chose to rest starting setter Jessica Peters on Thursday. The junior has been plagued by a foot injury all season.
“The health of the student-athlete is always my first concern,” Giesselmann said. “I just feel like with Jess, having to battle that foot injury all year, she’s got a better chance to be really good tomorrow morning. Really, she will have had about 36 hours of rest. That’s what we elected to do and it really doesn’t change much for us as far as what we’ve got going into tomorrow.”
Midland (21-10) will face either fellow Great Plains Athletic Conference team Northwestern or College of Idaho at 11:15 a.m. on Friday.
Westmont built a 13-6 lead in the opening set and Midland could not close the gap any closer than seven points the remainder of the set.
In the second set, Midland led 5-3 after a kill by middle blocker Priscilla O’Dowd. Westmont then went up 7-6 and never relinquished the lead.
Plagued by hitting errors, Midland hit just .077 in the first set and .098 in the second compared to .400 and .326, respectively, for Westmont.
“We were disappointed in the little things those first two games. There are things that we control whether Jess is in the lineup as far as how we’re passing, how we’re serving, making kind of poor decisions hitting,” Giesselmann said.
Midland battled throughout a closely-contested set three, taking an 11-7 lead after a service ace by Jenny Bair. Westmont (35-3) later had match point at 24-23, but a block by O’Dowd and Taylor Petersen extended the set at 24-24.
There were five more ties in the set before Westmont closed out the match with a kill by Libby Dahlberg and a block by Hali Galloway and Dahlberg. Overall, there were 19 ties in set three alone.
“Westmont is a legit team. They have a chance to go deep into the tournament,” Giesselmann said. “If we can take that same effort and energy we had in game three and carry that over to tomorrow with Jess back in the lineup, we’ve got a chance.”
O’Dowd and Bair each compiled nine kills for Midland while Shelby Bretschneider had five. O’Dowd and Maggie Hiatt each had four block assists and Sydney Morehouse had three.
Taylor Petersen had 27 assists. Libero Jessica Nekl had a team-high 13 digs.
Westmont was led by Dahlberg with 12 kills and Taylor Beckman with 11.
Giesselmann is confident his team can quickly bounce back from the loss and compete hard on Friday.
“I think a big key to that was actually how we did play in game three,” he said. “I think that gave them a lot of confidence. They felt good about their effort in game three and I do think that is going to carry out to tomorrow.”