By Nikki Sherrill, Communications and Sports Information Intern
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – (Schedule and Results) (Bracket) With the chance for a spot in the 16-team single-elimination bracket up for grabs in the 2016 NAIA Volleyball National Championship, presented by F&M Bank and Absolute Screen Art, teams were fighting to stay alive in the final day of pool play in Sioux City. After three pool play matches each, the top two teams in each pool advanced to Friday, keeping their title hopes alive.
The drama was highest in Pool C as two tie-break sets were needed to decide the No. 2 seed behind Hastings (Neb.) who swept its pool to take the top spot. Jamestown (N.D.), Union (Ky.) and Missouri Baptist all finished with a 1-2 record in the round-robin matches. Jamestown and Union found themselves fighting for their lives during a single first-to-25 set. The Jimmies won 25-16 to compete immediately after in another one-setter against Missouri Baptist. After all tie-break sets were completed, the Spartans of Missouri Baptist came away with the 25-23 win and opportunity to extend their time in Sioux City as they advanced to bracket play for the third-straight year.
Joining Hastings and Missouri Baptist in the single-elimination first round are overall No. 1 Westmont (Calif.), Columbia (Mo.), Viterbo (Wis.), Doane (Neb.), Lindsey Wilson (Ky.), Biola (Calif.), Midland (Neb.), Oklahoma City, Eastern Oregon, Montana Tech, Corban (Ore.), Dordt (Iowa), Grand View (Iowa) and Park (Mo.). Of the advancing teams, five also qualified for single-elimination last season. Montana Tech, which went 2-1 in pool play, has the longest absence from bracket play with their last appearance in the national championship taking place in 1988.
The late-night session paired three No. 1 seeds against the No. 2 seeds in their respective pools. Park, Dordt and Midland each dropped its first set as they hoped to survive an upset bid. Dordt stopped that bid from happening as it came back to defeat Grand View 3-1 to win the pool. Grand View dropped to 2-1 in pool play but will advance alongside the Defenders into Friday play.
Oklahoma City had a chance to go undefeated in its pool when it gave No. 1 seeded Midland a run, swiping the first set from the Warriors. Eventually, Midland took control of the match and sealed the pool with a 3-1 victory. Both programs advance into Friday. The final No. 1 vs. No. 2 match of the night paired the 2014 national champion Park with Lourdes with a ticket to continue on the line. Lourdes found its game early on, going up 2-0 over the Pirates. Park, led once again by Wendy Romero who documented 27 kills and 18 digs, powered its way back to win the next three sets and win the pool outright, 3-2.
Eastern Oregon is the only team to win all its matches in sweeps, going 3-0. Seven teams completed a perfect pool play record, with Pool G being the only one where each team had at least one loss. On the third day of pool action, seven matches ended in sweeps, with six needing four and two reaching five-set thrillers.
Columbia is one of the teams to capture a perfect mark to start the championship, as it tries to defend its 2015 national championship. Holding the No. 3 seed in its pool, the Cougars are the lowest seed to enter Friday perfect at 3-0. Columbia knocked off previously unbeaten and overall No. 1 Westmont in a 3-2 contest. The No. 1 seeds have gone 22-2 throughout the three pool play days.
As pool play comes to an end, the top players and teams to watch have started to make their names known in Sioux City. Viterbo has maintained control of three statistical categories – hitting percentage (.314), kills per set (16) and assists per set (14.8). Dordt’s Brooke Granstra has taken over as the top hitter with a percentage of .528, while Columbia’s Romero still holds the most kills per set with 5.8.
The first round of bracket play takes place Friday starting at 9 a.m. CST with three more pairs of matches to follow. The quarterfinal contests will begin at 6 p.m. CST and conclude with the 8:15 p.m. CST matches.
The NAIA Network – the association’s official video streaming home – will broadcast all 63 matches (including 48 pool-play matches) live at the 2016 NAIA Volleyball National Championship final site in Sioux City, Iowa. The video platform, powered by Stretch Internet, allows users access to live video, statistics, and social interaction on a number of devices, including mobile. Single day passes can be purchased for $9.95, while a pool play pass is $24.95 (Nov. 29 – Dec. 2) and an all-championship package is available at $39.95. For more information and the pre-register, click here.
For more information on the NAIA Volleyball National Championship, click here.