SIOUX CITY, Iowa – No. 5 Midland University dispensed of No. 22 Bellevue University in four sets on Wednesday night in a pool play match of the NAIA National Volleyball Championship at the Tyson Events Center.
Midland won the match by set scores of 25-21, 25-20, 19-25, 25-19.
Senior middle Krystina Koepke matched her career high with 10 blocks while flooring 13 kills.
“This was a really big win for us,” said head coach Paul Giesselmann. “Bellevue is a very good team and they showed it tonight by how hard they play for every single point. We had some disappointing stretches where we didn’t communicate well and that led to some mistakes, but I thought our energy was great in the fourth set.”
Koepke got her big night started by drilling five kills in the opening set. A four-point Bruins’ run gave Bellevue a slight 14-12 lead, forcing a Midland timeout. The Warriors responded with a 6-1 run to gain an 18-15 lead and never trailed again. A kill by Koepke sparked a four-point run with the game tied at 21-21 to give MU the win.
“I can’t say enough about Krystina’s play tonight,” Giesselmann said. “Not only the stats that she put up in this match, but all the hard work she’s put in to return from her knee injury this year. She’s a great kid and deserves all the success she’s having this week.”
MU was aided by eight Bruin attacking errors in the second set and looked poised to grab a commanding 2-0 match. The Warriors used a nine-point run to take a 14-8 lead, but with a 19-11 advantage Midland was unable to completely bury Bellevue. The Bruins chipped away at their deficit late before Koepke floored the final kill of the second set for another MU win.
Bellevue used that late momentum to steal the third set from Midland and extend the match. The Warriors committed seven attacking errors and were held to a .125 hitting percentage, their lowest of the night.
Bellevue recorded its best percentage in the third set (.186), but was limited to a .108 clip in the match as Midland regained its footing in the fourth game.
The fourth set went back-and-forth between the Nebraska foes. With the game tied at 11-11 a kill by Jessica Peters and a Jenny Bair service aces gave Midland a slight edge. A kill by Priscilla O’Dowd sparked a 7-2 run, giving the Warriors enough breathing room to finish off the Bruins at 21-14.
Senior KC Heimann drilled the final kill of the match to give MU a 2-0 record in pool play.
Heimann finished the match with 12 kills and 21 digs. O’Dowd added 14 kills and a pair of blocks. Peters recorded 41 set assists and 17 digs. Darcy Barry chipped in 21 digs. Freshman Shelby Bretschneider had seven block assists.
“I was really pleased with how well Shelby played in her first start at nationals,” Giesselmann added. “She took full advantage of her opportunity tonight and was a big part of our winning effort at the net.”
Midland improves to 28-3 overall this season with the win. Bellevue (0-2 pool play) falls to 31-12 on the year.
The Warriors will conclude pool play on Thursday night with a 7 p.m. match versus No. 12 Oklahoma City University. Midland and OKC have both guaranteed spots in Friday’s bracket regardless of their head-to-head matchup result.