SIOUX CITY, IOWA – The pool play round of the 2019 NAIA Women’s Volleyball National Championship presented by Marriott South Sioux City River Front kicked off today, with Morningside Women’s Volleyball playing top seed Park University. The Mustangs gave Park a fight, but fell 3-1 with scores of 25-17, 25-15, 22-25, and 25-21.
Morningside’s afternoon started slow, not to mention late, as the three o’clock match started an hour beyond the scheduled time, hitting 18 for 84 with 19 errors across the first two sets. The Mustangs’ kill leader on the season, Emma Gerber (SR/Worthington, MN), was heavily defended, forcing the team to find offense elsewhere.
“The other players have to stand up,” remarked Beth Donnelly on Park covering up Gerber. “I think they did at times, but I also think there was some self doubt. I kept telling them, ‘You’re playing as an underdog. There’s no pouting, as an underdog, you just have to go out there and play every single point like you can.’ Once we decided we could play defense and we could hang with them, then our offense picked up.”
Following some set-two adjustments, Morningside found the energy and the fight that it has demonstrated throughout the season in set three. The Mustangs had 15 kills and just four hitting errors, but more importantly, they took an early lead and held it, not trailing until Park broke a 16-16 tie. The Mustangs would regain the lead after a 19-19 tie, and eventually win the set off of a Krista Zenk (JR/Le Mars, IA) kill.
“The big adjustment we made was switching out our setters. I don’t think Callie was necessarily doing anything wrong, we just weren’t clicking. Even when Sabrina went in, it took her a little time to get the connections too, but overall I thought she held her own, she played a good match.”
Set four looked like the Mustangs might continue the success that they found in three, but they fell behind following a Park timeout with the score tied at 10. Morningside would trail by as many as seven before a scoring stretch including kills by Madison Hartman (SR/Morgan Hill, CA) and Caitlin Makovicka (JR/Ceresco, NE) brought them to within two. The Mustangs would get stuck at 21 points, as Park took the fourth and final set 25-21.
Not to be overshadowed by the evening’s loss, Morningside’s Kayla Harris (SO/Dakota City, NE) broke the 1,000 kill mark and set a new record for digs by a libero in a four set match, adding 37 digs to her career total. The overall mark in the current scoring era is 38 digs, set by Grace Chvatal in a five-set match in 2013. Emma Gerber also set a new record for career kills, breaking her tie with Maggie Vondrak, and now with 1,126 kills in her career.
Harris’ 37 digs led the Mustangs defensively, followed by Ashley Boer (JR/Rock Rapids, IA) with 14 digs. Hartman, Sabrina Creason (SO/Shawnee Mission, KS), and Merrin Van Velzen (JR/Sergeant Bluff, IA) each had nine digs. The team recorded eight blocks in the match, all by virtue of the block assist. Gerber led the way at the net, with four block assists. Makovicka and Zenk followed with three each, Brittni Olson (SR/Sioux City, IA) and Callie Alberico (SR/Fort Calhoun, NE) had two, and Hartman and Creason chipped in one apiece.
On the offensive side of the net, Hartman and Gerber shared top honors with 11 kills each. Zenk had 10, Olson seven, and Makovicka five. Creason did the lion’s share of the setting, collecting 27 assists in the match while Alberico had 11.
“It was a slow start, but it was a good finish. Hopefully we can start there tomorrow night with the next team,” reflected Donnelly following the loss.
The Mustangs return to pool play action on Wednesday, December 4, when they play Oklahoma City at 4:00 p.m.