Northwestern vs College of Idaho NAIA volleyball

Northwestern's Lacey Wacker sets the ball against College of Idaho during pool play at the 2017 NAIA Volleyball National Championship.

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY | Lauryn Hilger feels Thursday night’s match will prepare her and her Northwestern teammates for the NAIA Volleyball Championships First Round.

Jackie Van Vliet smacked a match-high 18 kills for 12th-ranked College of Idaho, which finished undefeated in Pool E play following a 25-14, 25-22, 18-25, 25-20 win over the No. 5 Red Raiders. One of two teams from the Cascade Collegiate Conference, the Coyotes were 3-1 winners in each of the three days at the Tyson Events Center.

“When we started off, we were a little rough, but then I think we brought our competitive edge, matched their energy and matched their play which we haven’t seen since the conference tournament,” said Hilger, a 5-10 middle hitter who provided 10 kills, seven digs and two ace serves for Northwestern (30-5), which will face No. 6 Westmont (34-3) at 3:45 Friday afternoon.

“That (Great Plains Athletic Conference Tournament) hasn’t been for a while. I think it was a good match to prepare us for the rest of the tournament. We just need to get our heads together and come back tomorrow fighting.”

Anna Kiel provided 11 kills, nine digs, five block assists and one ace serve for Northwestern, a national participant for the first time since 2014. Makenzie Fink finished with 10 kills, 10 digs and three block assists while A.J. Horstman ended with six kills, 12 digs and four block assists. Setter Lacey Wacker, who’s currently ranked fourth in the nation averaging 11.3 assists per game, dealt 34 assists.

Setter Marija Djonovic, a 5-9 senior and native of Podorica, Montenegro, led College of Idaho (27-6) with 50 assists. The nation’s leader with an 11.6 assist average directed an offense that received 12 kills from Alaina Slater while Kilee Lopez and Brenna Mehan contributed 19 and 16 digs, respectively.

“(Northwestern) was a great team,” said Van Vliet, a 6-foot-3 junior middle blocker who also provided two solo blocks and three block assists. “We dug really well in the past. That kept us in system. We were able to run all of our hitters. We shook off mistakes really well and were able to side out.”

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