Volleyball advances to NCAA tournament

by Shara TibkenEditor In Chief

The Storm Volleyball team has done something no other Simpson volleyball team since 1997 can claim: The team has earned a place in the NCAA Division III tournament, with regional play starting in St. Louis, Mo. on Nov. 9.

“We had a total team effort,” Head Coach Lana Smith said. “Our upper classmen played really well, and our setter (freshman Tara Christensen) had an outstanding match. Those folks really stood out, but it was a total team effort.”

The No. 1 seed Storm defeated No. 5 seed Wartburg and No. 2 seed Central in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament held at Simpson Nov. 2-3.

After a slow start in the semifinal match with the Storm trailing the Wartburg Knights 0-2, Simpson rallied back to defeat Wartburg, 3-2.

“We started off kind of slow and got down, 0-2,” senior Jessica Martin said. “Then we had our timeout and got our stuff together and played well the last three games. I think we were playing a little tense because we really needed to win that game. We needed to loosen up a little bit and play our own game, not really play to their level.”

The Storm then faced off against the Central Dutch for the final conference match-up Nov. 4. Simpson defeated Central in three straight sets, 30-22, 30-27 and 30-26.

“I think they (Central) came in with a mentality that they were going to avenge their loss,” senior Tiffany Everding said. “That didn’t happen. We came out really strong. We didn’t feel any pressure on Saturday, and I think that definitely helped us, and the home-court advantage was very good.”

Christensen led the team with 33 assists. Everding had 12 kills, followed by Martin with 11. Freshman Brittany Friesth contributed 26 digs.

Along with winning the conference tournament, three players received All-Conference honors. Martin and Everding both were named first team All-Conference, and Everding was also named the conference’s most valuable player. Christensen received second team All-Conference honors.

“It’s been awhile since we’ve had two players with first team All-Conference honors and three kids total,” Smith said. “I think it’s big. It says a lot when our setter makes All-Conference, and Tiffany Everding being the MVP of All-Conference is huge. It was big. We’re really proud of that fact, and she’s earned that. We’ve had a really great year.”

Simpson finished the season as conference champions with a 26-10 record and 6-2 record in the conference. The team will be entering regional play of the NCAA Tournament in the second-seed position.

The Storm will be playing Central Region teams in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, facing off against Maryville College from Tennessee Nov. 9 at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. If Simpson wins, the team will proceed through the tournament and continue play Nov. 10-11.

If the Storm advances through the regional meet, the women will then head to Salem, Va. for the NCAA Championships from Nov. 16-18.

“Jess Martin and I are both seniors, and we’ve been playing together since we were freshman,” Everding said. “It was really neat to pull it off. It’s been a goal of ours since we’ve been here, but we’ve never been able to finish until this year. This year we did it, finally.”