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Viterbo volleyball

Viterbo's Jenna Phillips leans forward to make a pass during Thursday's NAIA national tournament pool-play win over Eastern Oregon in Sioux City, Iowa.

SIOUX CITY, Iowa — The Viterbo University volleyball team has stayed the course all season, relying on its high-level talent and solid schemes to be ranked No. 1 or 2 in NAIA for a majority of the season.

No. 2 Viterbo used an efficient offense and kept Eastern Oregon off balance with its defense en route to a 25-20, 25-18, 25-18 win in front of 300 people Thursday at the NAIA Volleyball National Championship at the Tyson Event Center.

The V-Hawks won Pool B with a 3-0 record — each match was a 3-0 sweep, to boot — and advanced to the round of 16 for the fifth time in program history. The team is 37-1 record heading into the single-elimination portion of the tournament, where it will play NSAA rival No. 19 Jamestown at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

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Ryan DeLong MUG

DeLong

V-Hawks coach Ryan DeLong, the program’s winningest coach at 433-127 (.773 winning percentage), said the team’s dominance in pool play was spurred by staying in rhythm on both sides. Viterbo’s smallest margin of victory in a set was five points.

“We’re clicking right now. Our consistency in all aspects is solid,” DeLong said. “With a two-and-a-half week break, I was worried, but they’ve been ready to go.”

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Natalie Geidel MUG

Geidel

Freshman Maya Roberts continued her strong play from the second half of the season by pacing the offense with 13 kills. Senior Natalie Geidel, a two-time first-team NAIA All-American middle hitter, added 11, while freshman Miah Garant and senior Amelia Grahn had six apiece.

Viterbo had a .206 hitting percentage for the game, committing just 16 errors on 126 attacks.

“You’re going to get your kills from Natalie, we just know that, so it really becomes about somebody else stepping up. Miah was the one to step in today,” DeLong said. “(Eastern Oregon) has a good blocker who’s 6-3, so we knew up the middle was going to be tough, so we wanted to push it to the pins and Miah and Natalie did well.”

Grahn, another two-time All-American for the V-Hawks, tallied 20 digs and 30 assists. Senior Baylee Gross added 16 digs and three assists.

“I can’t even really explain what she does,” DeLong said of Grahn. “She’s that good. She runs the offense, she picked it up on the defensive side, she’s such a complete player.”

The round of 16 and quarterfinal games all take place Friday, while semifinal and championship matches are slated for Saturday. Viterbo defeated Jamestown (23-9) twice this season, a three-set sweep at Beggs Gymnasium and then a five-set win at Jamestown.

“It’s a rivalry game. They’re a good team, they’re well coached, they provide a good challenge,” DeLong said. “We’ve had success against them. So we’re excited to get out there and play them again.

“Survive and advance, as they say.”

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