SIOUX CITY | With its three-set victory over Dordt on Tuesday, Morningside locked up the host bid for the upcoming NAIA Volleyball National Championship tournament.
That doesn’t mean Coach Sara Horn’s Mustangs, 15-12 overall and 6-8 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference, won’t be focused for tonight’s match at crosstown rival Briar Cliff (18-14, 6-9).
“It (national tournament) was a goal of every single player,” Horn said. “It’s exciting to be able to compete in a national tournament in your hometown and I’m glad the seniors get to enjoy this their final year.
“We want to win tonight’s match like every other match. We’re very similar teams, and it couldn’t have been much closer the last time we played them. We’re both excited to have one more competitive match against each other.”
Briar Cliff outlasted the Mustangs in an exciting five-set duel on Sept. 26 at the Rosen-Verdoorn Sports Center, winning the fifth and deciding game 15-13.
Tonight’s match is the final regular-season fray for the Chargers while Morningside still has to travel to Midland on Saturday.
This brings us to an interesting scenario.
Yes, Briar Cliff can still finish with a better overall record and sweep Morningside, but the Mustangs will still be the host school in the national tournament.
Both teams will finish the season with a record above .500, which qualifies them to be the host school.
Therefore, according to criteria agreed upon by both schools, the school with the best record between common opponents in the GPAC will be considered the host institution for the national tournament Nov. 27-Dec. 1 at the Tyson Events Center.
Morningside finished with a 5-5 record and Briar Cliff 3-7 against common opponents. Head to head matches between the schools were not used in this criteria.
“The reason it was written this way is that there were a couple of years where Morningside and Briar Cliff only played once, so it was not fair to use a single match as the determining factor,” GPAC commissioner Corey Westra said.
Westra explained that the agreement was strictly between the two schools and that GPAC competition was only used as a mechanism.
For the record, the 10 common matches were home against Dordt (BC L, MC W); home against Northwestern (BC L, MC L); at Nebraska Wesleyan (BC L, MC W); home against Dakota Wesleyan (BC W, MC W); at Doane (BC L, MC L); at Dordt (BC L, MC L); home against Midland (MC L, BC L); at Northwestern (MC L, BC L); home against Mount Marty (MC W, BC W) and at Dakota Wesleyan (MC W, BC W).
There is one way that Briar Cliff can unseat the Mustangs as the host team. Should the Chargers win the upcoming GPAC tournament (Nov. 6-10), they would earn the host bid.
"As a coach, all you can ask for is a chance," said Briar Cliff Coach Jill Muhe. "You hope you're playing well throughout the season but it's always nice to be playing your best toward the end of the year.
"Crosstown rivalries are lots of fun and intense. You always expect a tough match from Morningside."
As far as the criteria for determining the national tournament host, Muhe said her team will play the hand it's been dealt.
"If we sweep them and have a better overall and conference record it will be hard to swallow," said the Charger coach. "But we'll find a way to do it."
Briar Cliff’s Kally Idema (364) and Maggie Vondrak of Morningside (314) each average 2.91 kills per set. The Chargers’ Marissa Van Driel has contributed 257 kills, Breanna Nogelmeier 241 and Monica Boeding 238.
Briana Schaeuble of Morningside has 247 kills, Gabi French 220 and Anastasia Ott 215.
A pair of former East High standouts – Erin Frank of Briar Cliff and Melissa Mounts of Morningside – lead their teams with 1,060 and 799 assists, respectively. Schaeuble, who prepped at Kingsley-Pierson, has 145 total blocks and Nogelmeier 94.
Morningside’s Vondrak, a former Bishop Heelan prep standout, has 364 digs and BCU’s Lindsey Jardine 384.
As a team, Morningside boasts a .191 attack percentage and Briar Cliff .172.
Each team lists just four seniors on its roster, so the best might still lie ahead for the longtime rivals.