SIOUX CITY | There’s something to be said about the American Midwest Conference.
For the first time since 2015, the AMC has two finalists in the NAIA Volleyball National Championship. Second-ranked Park and third-ranked Columbia each advanced to Saturday night’s title match with four-game semifinal victories Saturday morning at the Tyson Events Center.
Nada Meawad, a 6-foot outside hitter from Cairo, Egypt, slammed 29 kills while leading Park to a 26-28, 25-19, 25-15, 25-10 win over Midland. Maria Sandoval pounded 14 kills as Columbia reached the title match with a 25-22, 25-14, 20-25, 25-12 win over Viterbo.
Saturday night’s title match was a potential barnburner. After all, Park defeated Columbia in five games during the regular-season matchup. Columbia avenged the defeat with a 3-2 win in the AMC Tournament final.
Because of the all-day winter storm warning over Sioux City and the surrounding area, the Sioux City Journal had a two-hour early deadline Saturday night. Results of the match will be in Monday’s edition.
Columbia was a 25-23, 25-23, 25-19 winner over Missouri Baptist in 2015, the last time the AMC had two teams in the finals. Caroline Clifford, who had seven kills for Columbia in the semifinal triumph, takes a lot of pride in the conference for which she competes.
“It helps an insane amount,” Clifford said following Friday night’s 3-1 win over Dordt, a victory that put Columbia in the semifinals for the first time since 2015.
“Day in and day out, we know we’re going to get good competition in every single conference game we play. We’ve got Woods (William Woods), we’ve got Park, we’ve got Mo Bap. I mean, those are some of the top teams in the country and they all play quick. That’s our style. It helps when we get here.”
Columbia (42-4) defeated a Viterbo squad that on Friday night, upset No. 1 Grand View in the quarterfinals, handing the Des Moines squad their first loss in 37 matches.
Kiersten Anderson had 10 kills and eight digs for Columbia, a program that has rich history at the NAIA Volleyball Championship with four championships and five runner-up finishes. Overall, the program has reached the national tournament in each of the last 25 seasons.
Barbara Sabino added nine kills for the Cougars. Setter Manuela Vargas dished 44 assists. Vargas also recorded two ace serves along with Sandoval, Sabino and Anderson. Theis Andrade had 14 digs.
Viterbo (33-8) fell in the semifinals for the second straight year. Aubrey Aspen had 12 kills for the seventh-ranked squad from the North Star Athletic Association, one more than teammate Lydia Xu.
Setters Lauryn Sobasky and Chloe Jakscht had 21 and 20 assists, respectively. Jakscht also finished with 15 digs, four more than Rachel Frankowski.
Park (35-1) reached the national finals for the first time since 2014, the year it defeated Texas at Brownsville 25-23, 25-19, 25-16.
Noura Meawad had 14 kills for Park in the win over Midland, which was bidding to make the tournament finals for the first time in school history.
Setter Danna Gomes had 53 assists for the Pirates. Double-digit dig totals came from Celina Monteiro (21), Noura Meawad (18), Nada Meawad (12) and Alissa Flint (11).
Midland, the 14th-seed and lone remaining Great Plains Athletic Conference squad, last reached the NAIA semifinals in 2016, the year it fell to Dordt.
Taylor Petersen led Midland (26-8) with 14 kills. Priscilla O’Dowd added 11 kills and 14 digs.
Setter Jessica Peters provided 36 assists and 14 digs for the Warriors. Brooke Fredrickson had a team-high 15 digs while Mackenzie Wecker added 11.
FRIDAY'S LATE QUARTERFINALS
PARK 3, SOUTHERN OREGON 1: The Pirates moved into the semifinal round with a 25-23, 25-10, 22-25, 26-24 win over Southern Oregon in a match played late Friday at the Tyson Events Center.
Nada Meawad had 15 kills while Paula deOliviera and Alissa Flint added 14 more kills apiece to lead a balanced Park attack, which at a .317 clip for the match. The Pirates (34-1) will take on Midland in a semifinal contest Saturday.
Taylor Ristvedt had a match-high 20 kills to lead Southern Oregon, which ended its season with a 29-5 record.
MIDLAND 3, LINDSEY WILSON 2: The Midland volleyball team defeated defending national champion Lindsey Wilson 16-25, 19-25, 25-22, 25-19 15-12 in the quarterfinals of the NAIA Volleyball Championship on Friday at the Tyson Events Center.
Priscilla O’Dowd finished with 20 kills for Midland (26-7) and added 11 digs. Jenny Bair recorded 13 kills. Jessica Peters dished out 55 assists and added 17 digs. Brooke Fredrickson notched 20 digs, Jaisa Russell tallied 16 and Mackenzie Wecker had 12.
Klara Mikelova registered 17 kills and 14 digs for Lindsey Wilson (33-4). Paulina Sobolewska notched 17 kills and Sarah Cruz had 10. Autumn Proctor dished out 53 assists and added 18 digs. Lilo Larzelere logged 22 digs and Elly Burke notched 14.