SIOUX CITY | Not many teams have taken Lindsey Wilson to extra sets this season.
Dordt’s five-point win in the third set of Saturday night’s NAIA Volleyball National Championship title match avoided an early exit. And it fueled a Lindsey Wilson fire that the Defenders couldn’t put out.
Mid-South Conference freshman of the year Paulina Sobolewska had three early Game 4 kills for a team that bolted to a 5-0 lead.
Playing a four-game match for only the fourth time this season, top-ranked Lindsey Wilson concluded a 35-0 campaign with a 25-16, 25-20, 20-25, 25-14 win at the Tyson Events Center. Dordt finished as the national tournament runner-up for the second consecutive year.
Sobolewska, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter and native of Zuromin, Poland, delivered 20 kills, 19 digs and two block assists for Lindsey Wilson, which became the first team to end an undefeated season at the NAIA Volleyball Nationals since 2014. Park posted a 40-0 mark that year.
“I’m extremely happy. I cannot even say what I’m feeling right now,” said Sobolewska while standing on the floor of confetti that rained down from the top of the ceiling immediately when the match ended. “I’m excited. I’m surprised. I’m just happy. We had really good practices. We were very well-prepared. Because we did so well in our practice, we deserved this.”
Sobolewska and right-side hitter Elly Burke (11 kills, 24 digs) represented Lindsey Wilson on the all-tournament team while setter Makenzie Montano (50 assists, 9 digs, 1 solo block, 2 block assists, 5 kills) was named the tournament’s outstanding setter.
Montano, a returning NAIA All-American and two-time Mid-South Conference player of the year, said her team wasn’t angry about having to play a four-game match. She also said she expected Dordt to provide a challenge and that she was not surprised about Sobolewska’s electric Game 4 start.
“That’s my little Polish girl,” smiled Montano. “She’s awesome. For being a freshman, she stepped up. She played six rotations all year. She never came out of the game. She’s one of the hardest workers I have ever known. She listens to everybody and she just gets the job done.”
Dordt (34-8) was represented on the all-tournament team by middle blocker Leah Kamp (20 kills, 1 solo block, 2 block assists) and outside hitter Ema Altena (11 kills, 10 digs). Summer Jansen (29 digs) was named the tournament’s outstanding libero while Coach Chad Hanson’s squad won the tournament’s Champions of Character Award.
Gracefully, the Defenders accepted the tournament’s runner-up trophy. There was a post-game tribute to the Great Plains Athletic Conference squad on the North Concourse of the Tyson Events Center to celebrate another outstanding tournament run.
Hanson and his players of course, consoled each other in the locker room afterwards. The Defenders led from start to finish in Game 3, taking advantage of Lindsey Wilson errors in the beginning before Kamp and Altena turned it on with relentless hitting.
“The run to this point has been unbelievable,” said an upbeat Hanson, wiping a tear from his right eye. “I told the team in the locker room, if you would have told us at the start of the season that we would be playing in this match again, we would have just hugged you and said thanks for believing in us and cool, we’ll discover it together.
“The effort, fantastic. The mental toughness, resilient. The joy that we have had in this run is top of the charts and it has really been worthwhile. I told them in the locker room, the pain from this loss I hope is the best pain they will ever experience because this is an amazing platform for us to be in. We’re grateful for this total experience.”
Seven Defenders will return for next season and possibly, another tournament run. Among them are Kamp, who in her last three matches of the tournament provided 18, 19 and 20 kills, the 57 kills amounting to an average of 4.75 per game.
Kamp and her teammates struggled in the first two games to hit against three solid blocking combinations that Lindsey Wilson threw on the other side of the net. However, with every kill she had, Kamp was smiling and behind the energy of the Dordt fans, she and her teammates kept on hitting.
“We had a heck of a season that was really fun,” said a misty Kamp. “Making it to the national championship was icing on top of the cake. (Lindsey Wilson) played amazing. I think we both had really strong offenses. It really came down to our blocking and our defense. They executed a little better than we did at some points.”
Erica Bousema and Aubrey Drake contributed 14 and 12 digs, respectively, for the Defenders. Ally Krommendyk had nine kills and a team-high five block assists while 6-foot-6 Haley Moss had six kills and three block assists.