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Volleyball NAIA Northwestern vs. Rocky Mountain

Northwestern's Bekah Horstman hits the ball against Rocky Mountain's Naomi Bad Bear during NAIA Women's Volleyball National Championship at Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa on Thursday.

SIOUX CITY – Along both sides of the courts:

Almost all season long it was obvious Northwestern College’s volleyball team wasn’t clicking on all cylinders.

The Red Raiders won six of their first seven matches, falling only to No. 1 Grand View.

But, on the NAIA national tournament stage it was apparent more than ever the strong program was missing its most potent weapons.

Without All-Americans Anna Kiel and A.J. Horstman the Red Raiders went 1-2 in pool play, still advanced to the single-elimination round of 16, but lost to Viterbo (Wis.) and finished the campaign 25-10.

Kiel and Horstman both suffered debilitating injuries early in the season, sidelining the two NAIA All-Americans.

But, the two have been granted an injury hardship year and will be juniors for the 2019 volleyball season.

The 6-foot Kiel, an Orange City Unity Christian grad, was The Journal’s Siouxland Female Athlete of the Year in 2016.

She signed with Iowa State, where she appeared in six matches with the Cyclones as a freshman in ’16, then transferred to Northwestern and had a brilliant season in 2017.

The 6-1 Horstman, like Kiel, a first-team prep all-stater, starred at Pella Christian High School.

Kiel suffered a painful stress fracture in a foot, putting her on the injury shelf, and Horstman was sidelined with back problems.

Kiel is still hoping to join Northwestern’s fifth-ranked Division II women’s basketball team, possibly before the first of the year.

She led Unity to back-to-back state prep titles in basketball.

  • The unwashed national media experts would describe University of South Dakota basketball as a “mid major.’’

Time to erase that label and call USD a, well, major program on the hardcourt.

To start with, let’s examine the Coyote women and their accomplishments thus far this season.

USD has already defeated so-called major programs Creighton, Wichita State, Montana and nationally 23rd-ranked Iowa State. The lone loss is at Drake, ranked 24th nationally.

The Coyote women have upcoming games with Missouri of the Southeastern Conference and tangle with Indiana of the Big Ten in an event in Puerto Rico in late December.

Meanwhile, the USD men dropped a close one at Baylor and have upcoming dates with Colorado, Colorado State, Kansas and Southern Mississippi.

Despite the national media inventing this “upper tier mid major’’ category, simply put, along with a difficult Summit League slate, the USD men and women are “major’’ in any degree of college basketball.

  • A different group of fans made the long trip to Sioux City for the volleyball nationals than the Rocky Mountain College faithful who visited Our Town a couple of weeks ago to watch their Battlin’ Bears fall to Morningside in the NAIA football playoffs at Olsen Stadium.

It’s an 11-hour drive from Billings (Mont.) to Sioux City, but a few Rocky boosters traveled by air to Omaha and made a far shorter drive north by rental car.

The school is enjoying a successful year in all sports with the men’s soccer team reaching the nationals and the football team qualifying for the playoffs in addition to the volleyball squad.

Rocky was led throughout the season by 5-10 southpaw outside Haley Copinga, the Frontier Conference player of the year.

The Bears advanced out of pool play, but lost to Southern Oregon in the round of 16. The two schools were meeting for the first time. They compete in the same Frontier Conference in football, but Southern Oregon is a member of the Cascade Conference in volleyball.

  • Throughout the football season readers, listeners and watchers were well informed about the work of Iowa State defensive stars Ray Lima, Mike Rose, Willie Harvey and Brian Peavey, but little was mentioned of defensive back Greg Eisworth.

Earlier this week, Eisworth was named first-team All-Big 12 and also tabbed defensive newcomer of the year.

The 6-1, 198-pound defensive back Grand Prairie, Texas, spent a semester at Mississippi in 2016, then transferred to Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, where in played in 2017 and signed with Iowa State shortly after the season began.

Going into a game with Drake Saturday, Eisworth was ISU’s leading tackler.

  • Maybe it is best that University of Iowa football and men’s basketball is carried on at least four separate radio stations, as in the past.

But, that would dry up the never-ending money flow that is the lifeblood of Division I athletics.

Broadcast honest and integrity, however, might possibly return without risk of suspension or termination in a multiple-outlet scenario.

  • Interestingly enough, 11 of the 32 qualifiers to the NAIA volleyball nationals lost their final matches of the regular season, including second-ranked Park (Mo.).

The others were College of Idaho, Eastern Oregon, Hastings, Midland, Missouri Baptist, Morningside, Northwestern, Rocky Mountain, Vanquard (Calif.) and Westmont (Calif.).

  • Former University of South Dakota star Matt Mooney was averaging 11 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists a game before his No. 19 Texas Tech team clashed with Memphis yesterday.

Mooney, a graduate transfer who averaged 14.2 and 15.0 points in two seasons with USD, tallied 15 points in a win over Nebraska a week ago.

He began his career at Air Force and sat out year while making a transfer to USD.

The 6-3 defensive specialist from Wauconda (Ill.) also tallied 17 points in a win over Southern Cal and was making his seventh start for 6-0 Tech against Memphis.

  • Just so you know, Drake last beat Iowa State in football in 1985, not 2017, and the NAIA football title game is at Municipal Stadium/Larry Kelly Field on Dec. 15 in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The facility serves as the home field for Bethune-Cookman football, an FCS program that lost at Nebraska this season. It was built in 1988 and has a capacity of 9,601.

The capacity is a tad smaller than Morningside’s Olsen Stadium, but comparison of the two press boxes is like comparing the darkest night to the brightest day.

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