Sports, Volleyball

Knights travel to St. Paul for regional play

Mutliple school records have been broken by the No. 11 ranked Wartburg volleyball team this season. And they’re not done yet.

32 wins and five all-IIAC players are the most recent records broken by the Knights after winning the Iowa Conference regular season and tournament championships.

Now they move on to their biggest challenge of the season: the NCAA Tournament.

“We just didn’t leave any doubt on the floor,” head coach Jennifer Walker said of the Iowa Conference campaign. The Knights swept every regular season match except Central, losing the first set of the first match.

The Knights accomplished what the last two teams failed to do. This year marked the third year in a row that Wartburg was picked to win the IIAC, the last two did not live up to expectations.

“Our team played like a veteran team this year throughout the entire regular season. These are the same athletes that fell short each of the last two years and when you do that, you learn from it,” Walker said.

The NCAA Tournament provides a much tougher challenge than the Iowa Conference however. The IIAC had just one other team, Coe, finish the season with a winning record.

The Knights proved themselves out-of-conference though, playing multiple ranked teams.

“I think we can compete with anybody,” Walker said. “We’ve gone up against a lot of tough teams and competed very closely with all of them. We’re at a point now where if we meet up with those teams again, we’ve got a very good shot at beating them.”

One of those teams is No. 8 St. Thomas (34-1), which defeated Wartburg (32-5) at Levick Arena in five sets at the Knights Classic on Oct. 5

The Tommies happen to be hosting Wartburg’s regional and if both teams win their first round game, a rematch will take place in St. Paul.

“That was the night that we realized we are right in the thick of it,” Walker said of Wartburg’s 25-19, 21-25, 25-20, 23-25, 13-15 loss to St. Thomas. “If we were able to turn the tables and beat them on their home court, especially at this point in the season, that would just prove to our team that all this hard work that we’ve put in is well worth it.”

But before the Knights can look at a potential top 12 matchup with the Tommies, they have to get past their first round opponent first.

Wisconsin-Eau Claire (25-11) beat No. 20 Wisconsin-Whitewater and swept No. 19 Wisconsin-Stevens Point for the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament championship and received an automatic bid to the tournament.

“If we serve well and compete well with our defense we will be very good,” Walker said of the first round matchup.

“At this point in the season, every team you go up against is gonna have good hitters. If we’re able to cover them with our defense and set our hitters up we’ll be in a very good position.”

More records stand in Wartburg’s way, including a coveted national championship that the program has never won.

“I think if we play to our potential we can go all the way,” Walker said.

LISTEN to all of Wartburg’s NCAA Tournament games on 89.9 KWAR and The Circuit.

FOLLOW @NathanTFord on Twitter for updates throughout the tournament.

LOG ON to The Circuit for updated recaps from Wartburg’s tournament run.

ST. THOMAS REGIONAL

What: NCAA Tournament Rounds One, Two and Three

When: Thursday, Friday and Saturday

Where: Schoenecker Arena (Saint Paul, Minn.)

SCHEDULE

THURSDAY: FIRST ROUND

12:30 p.m.- No. 24 St. Benedict (27-5) vs. Dominican (24-8)

3:00 p.m.- Northwestern (26-8) vs. No. 19 Wisconsin-Stevens Point (29-7)

5:30 p.m.- No. 11 Wartburg (32-5) vs. Wisconsin-Eau Claire (25-11)

8:00 p.m.- No. 8 St. Thomas (34-1) vs. Cornell (20-10)

FRIDAY: SECOND ROUND

4:30 p.m.- St. Benedict/Dominican Winner vs. Northwestern/UW-Stevens Point Winner

7:00 p.m.- Wartburg/UW-Eau Claire Winner vs. St. Thomas/Cornell Winner

SATURDAY: SWEET SIXTEEN

7:00 p.m.- St. Thomas Regional Final

Full Bracket

AT A GLANCE: CORNELL (20-10)

Mascot: Rams

Colors: Purple and White

Location: Mount Vernon, Iowa

Enrollment: 1,103

Conference: Midwest (1st, 10-0)

Tournament Qualification: Automatic (Beat Monmouth 3-1, Beat St. Norbert 3-1)

Leaders: Kathleen O’Connor (3.80 kills/set), Sabrina Hargis (7.42 assists/set), Kylea Weber (5.90 digs/set), Taylor Dicus (1.31 blocks/set)

AT A GLANCE: DOMINICAN (24-8)

Mascot: Stars

Colors: Royal Blue, Black and White

Location: River Forest, Ill.

Enrollment: 1,953

Conference: Northern Athletics (3rd, 10-2)

Tournament Qualification: At-Large (Beat Marian 3-0, Lost to Benedictine 2-3)

Leaders: Jacy Lawrence (3.49 kills/set), Christina Wilson (7.12 assists/set), Liz Yakey (4.89 digs/set), Julie Shulenburg (0.90 blocks/set)

AT A GLANCE: NORTHWESTERN (26-8)

Mascot: Eagles

Colors: Purple, Gold and White

Location: Roseville, Minn.

Enrollment: 1,948

Conference: Upper Midwest Athletic (1st, 13-1)

Tournament Qualification: Automatic (Beat Minnesota-Morris 3-1, Beat St. Scholastica 3-0)

Leaders: Kendra Korporal (3.96 kills/set), Krista Stolz (11.54 assists/set), Lexi Bertsch (4.82 digs/set), Courtney Jonas (1.02 blocks/set)

AT A GLANCE: ST. BENEDICT (No. 24, 27-5)

Mascot: Blazers

Colors: Red and White

Location: St. Joseph’s, Minn.

Enrollment: 2,029

Conference: Minnesota Intercollegiate (2nd, 10-1)

Tournament Qualification: At-Large (Beat Concordia 3-0, Lost to No. 8 St. Thomas 2-3)

Leaders: Lexi Alm (3.89 kills/set), Taya Kockelman (11.25 assists/set), Victoria Nass (6.21 digs/set), Kendra Coleman (0.95 blocks/set)

AT A GLANCE: ST. THOMAS (No. 8, 34-1)

Mascot: Tommies

Colors: Purple and Gray

Location: St. Paul, Minn.

Enrollment: 5,780

Conference: Minnesota Intercollegiate (1st, 11-0)

Tournament Qualification: Automatic (Beat Carleton 3-2, Beat St. Benedict 3-2)

Leaders: Kelly Foley (3.04 kills/set, 0.93 blocks/set), Katie Maher (6.28 assists/set), Kaiti Wachter (5.25 digs/set)

AT A GLANCE: WARTBURG (No. 11, 32-5)

Mascot: Knights

Colors: Orange and Black

Location: Waverly, Iowa

Enrollment: 1,729

Conference: Iowa Intercollegiate (1st, 7-0)

Tournament Qualification: Automatic (Beat Luther 3-1, Beat Loras 3-0)

Leaders: Britlyn Sieck (3.76 kills/set), Ramey Sieck (9.63 assists/set), Marissa Shinstine (4.17 digs/set), Bailey Wilson (0.93 blocks/set)

AT A GLANCE: WISCONSIN-EAU CLAIRE (25-11)

Mascot: Blugolds

Colors: Blue and Gold

Location: Eau Claire, Wis.

Enrollment: 9,665

Conference: Wisconsin Intercollegiate (T-2nd, 6-2)

Tournament Qualification: Automatic (Beat No. 20 Wisconsin-Whitewater 3-1, Beat No. 19 Wisconsin-Stevens Point 3-0)

Leaders: Amy Bomgren (3.54 kills/set), Emily Neave (10.59 assists/set), Lauren Sutherland (4.54 digs/set), Tessa Snell (0.89 blocks/set)

AT A GLANCE: WISCONSIN-STEVENS POINT (No. 19, 29-7)

Mascot: Pointers

Colors: Purple and Gold

Location: Stevens Point, Wis.

Enrollment: 8,096

Conference: Wisconsin Intercollegiate (1st, 7-1)

Tournament Qualification: At-Large (Beat Wisconsin-Oshkosh 3-2, Lost to Wisconsin-Eau Claire 0-3)

Leaders: Morgan Bartkowiak (2.09 kills/set), Alexis Hartman (8.97, assists/set), Hannah Picel (4.34 digs/set), Allison Davis (1.31 blocks/set)

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