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Warriors sweep Comets to reach NAIA national championship final site

Warriors sweep Comets to reach NAIA national championship final site

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For the seventh time in eight years, Midland volleyball is headed to final site of the NAIA national tournament after sweeping Mayville State 3-0 (25-23, 25-17, 25-21) in front of a home crowd Saturday.

The Warriors were left out of the dance in 2019 after failing to secure an at-large bid, snapping a streak of six-straight national tournament appearances, and that struck with Midland as they battled through the adversity of the 2020 season.

“It’s been their goal from the day over a year ago when they made the selection show and we were left out,” Midland coach Paul Giesselmann said. “That was something that our returning players have not forgotten and they were going to be driven not to just get into the national tournament, but they wanted to get to Sioux City.”

The Warriors only trailed once in the three sets—an opening point kill by the Comets in the final set—jumping out to big leads in each set. Mayville, who was playing in the program’s first national tournament game, was one of the few teams across the national to play more than 30 games this year.

“I was not expecting us to sweep this team because they were playing at a really high level, but I really had a great sense of how we were playing this spring,” Giese

An ace by Taliyah Flores broke open set one, giving the Warriors a 9-3 advantage.

The junior led the Warriors offense, putting down a team-high 15 kills.

“When you get to this point in the season, you need your best players to play like great players and you saw that today out of Taliyah,” Giesselmann said.

Midland held it’s six-point advantage for most of the set until the Comets rallied to tie the game at 22-all.

A kill by Brooke Fredrickson put the Warriors back in front for good. Sydney Morehouse, who finished with nine kills, secured the final two points to give Midland the early 1-0 advantage.

A four-point run sprung Midland to a 6-1 advantage in the second set. The Comets would come no closer the rest of the way as the Warriors cruised to the cusp of the sweep.

The third set featured the closest action of the afternoon as Mayville got within two late at 20-18.

A three-point swing for the Warriors aided by back-to-back kills from Lauryn Samuelson, who finished with nine kills, gave Midland the cushion needed to close out the game.

The Warriors move to 12-9 on the year with the win.

Midland finished with 51 kills while hitting .208 for the match compared to 25 kills and a .078 efficiency for Mayville.

Sophomore setter Hope Leimbach dished out a balanced attack with 41 assists and six digs. Senior Jaisa Russell led the team with nine digs.

The final stop on the 2020 season will be Sioux City, Iowa and the Tyson Event Center were Midland and 23 other teams from across the nation will battle for the national championship. The GPAC will be well represented as all five qualifiers from the conference won their opening round match-ups.

Three-team pool play will begin on April 27 and finish on April 28. The eight pool play winners will return to a single elimination tournament on April 29 through May 1, a change from the previous year’s tournaments.

“I love the new format,” Giesselmann said. “We obviously had a ton of success with the old format, but I think this format is much better for the health of the student athletes.”

Midland will be in pool D alongside Indiana Wesleyan (20-2) and Rocky Mountain (18-4).

The Warriors will face Rocky Mountain at 5 p.m. on April 27 and Indiana Wesleyan at 1 p.m. on April 28.

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