SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Five matches into the NAIA Women’s National Volleyball Championship and No. 2 Viterbo University has yet to lose a match. In fact, the V-Hawks have yet to drop a set in what may be their best national performance yet.
Viterbo (39-1) swept its quarterfinal match against Jamestown, N.D., Friday afternoon, then came back to sweep No. 7 Park University (Mo.) Friday night to earn a spot in Saturday’s semifinals. Viterbo, which has won 40 consecutive sets, will face either Dordt (Iowa) Westmont (Calif.) in the semifinals at 11 a.m. Saturday. If the V-Hawks win that, they would play in the NAIA national championship match at 7 p.m. at the Tyson Events Center.
Viterbo, which beat Lady of Our Lake (Texas), No. 17 Georgetown (Ky.), and No. 15 Eastern Oregon in pool play, knocked off Jamestown 26-24, 25-11, 25-18, then beat Park 25-23, 25-21, 25-23 in the Elite Eight Friday night.
It is the third time Viterbo has earned a spot in the Final Four of the 32-team national tournament.
“This is as good of a team as we have had. That said, it is taking away nothing from the other teams we have down here, but we are playing the best volleyball we ever had down here,” Viterbo coach Ryan DeLong said. “Our third trip to the Final Four, people don’t understand how hard it is to get here. Natalie (Geidel), Meils (Amelia Grahn) and Baylee (Gross), they are playing like seniors who don’t want it to end. That trio has played tremendous volleyball all year, and they have kicked their game up to the next level at the national tournament.”
Viterbo needed Geidel (22 kills), Grahn (49 assists, 20 digs) and Gross (21 digs) to turn back Park. It also needed — and received — a strong performance from freshmen Miah Garant (10 kills) and Maya Roberts (7 kills).
Earlier Friday, Viterbo found itself in a wild first-set battle with another North Star Athletic Association opponent, No. 19 Jamestown, in its first single-elimination bracket match (Sweet 16). The V-Hawks trailed 24-22, but rallied for a 26-24 victory.
That comeback set the tone, as Viterbo swept the Jimmies 26-24, 25-11, 25-18, ending Jametown’s season at 24-10.
“They came out on fire and led quite a bit of that set. They were on a high,” said DeLong, who saw his team win its fourth national tournament match, and push its consecutive sets won streak to 34. “We tried to maintain and keep it close and make a run. Fortunately when it was 24-22, we made a little mini run and got the first set which gave us some momentum.”
Once again the one-two punch of senior Geidel, a 6-foot-2 middle hitter from West Bend, Wis., and junior Aubrey Aspen, a 6-3 right side hitter from Sparta — came up big. Geidel led a balanced V-Hawks’ attack with 16 kills, while Aspen added 11.
Two of Viterbo’s standout freshmen, Roberts and Garant, added eight kills each as Viterbo finished with 50 kills to 33 for the Jimmies.
“With our schedule we have been in a lot of different situations throughout the season, so when we saw it, we knew we had to make the plays,” DeLong said of the first-set challenge. “Once we won that first set, obviously they had the pressure on them. We got into a rhythm offensively and were really playing well in all aspects throughout the match.”
Amelia Grahn, a two-time first-team All-American setter, turned in another strong all-around performance against Jamestown. Grahn dished out 40 assists, had 11 digs and four kills. A third All-American, libero Baylee Gross, came up with 21 digs.
“Baylee had a great match, Meils (Grahn) had a double-double, so it was a fun match, a good match for us,” DeLong said.