Kansas Wesleyan’s volleyball players had a request for their coach Jessica Biegert after learning their destination in the NAIA Women’s Volleyball National Championship Opening Round.
“The girls have asked for parkas or sweatshirts or coats to make it up to South Dakota,” Biegert said with a smile following the announcement Monday morning.
The Coyotes (28-6) play No. 6-ranked Dakota Wesleyan (22-7) at 7 p.m. Saturday in Mitchell, S.D. The match is one of 24 in the opening round played at campus sites. Winners move to the final site for pool play November 30-December 2 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
KWU, which is playing in its first NAIA tournament since 2014, qualified by winning the Kansas Conference Tournament on Saturday at the Hutchinson Sports Arena. The Coyotes defeated McPherson 3-0 Friday then eliminated second-seeded Oklahoma Wesleyan in a wild 3-1 semifinal (31-29, 25-22, 25-27, 32-30) and outlasted Saint Mary in a five-set thriller 19-25, 25-21, 12-25, 25-22, 15-12) Saturday. They trailed 10-6 in the fifth set before rallying.
“We’re just grateful for the experience,” Biegert said. “The passion they had in their eyes and the refuse to lose mentality just proved that they weren’t done being together and looking out for each other and loving on each other. Now we get to take that to the next level.”
Biegert said her team displayed the mental toughness it needed in the final two matches.
“That’s all mental toughness to come back,” she said. “Proud to say that we accomplished it, it’s something we’ve worked on for four years and it finally paid off. It’s just really great to see them reap the rewards of it.”
More will be needed Saturday. The Coyotes have won their last nine matches and 21 of their last 23.
“Just finding that fire and will to win and keep running off our momentum that we’ve built with the last run in the conference and just raising the game stuff,” Biegert said. “It’s one more game together and to fight for another one.”
Dakota Wesleyan is one of seven teams from the Great Plains Athletic Conference playing in the NAIA tournament. The Tigers lost to second-ranked Jamestown (N.D.) 3-0 in the semifinals of the conference tournament Saturday and have lost three of their last five matches.
Dakota Wesleyan was 11-5 in the GPAC and is 8-1 at home this season.