On Thursday, Nov. 12, the North Central Volleyball team played their first game in the NCCAA Division II national tournament in Kissimee, Florida.
The 12-18 North Central Rams played their regional rivals first, 17-4 Providence University College, and the scores for the sets were 25-23, 25-22, and 25-17 in Providence’s favor.
The next match was one against Arlington Baptist College from Arlington, Texas, in which the Rams lost three sets straight: 25-11, 25-11, and 25-16, providing Arlington with the win.
They finished out the tournament with two more losses, one to third ranked Manhattan Christian College from Manhattan, Kansas; and another one to the sixth ranked Pensacola Christian College from Pensacola, Florida.
After a loss to Providence in the NCCAA North Central region championship game put them out of the running for the national tournament, head coach Stephanie Schmidt put a bid into the pool for the tournament in Florida from November 12 to 14.
The women’s volleyball team sat in the coach’s office, waiting for her to share the news about going to the nationals.
“I have some bad news,” head coach Stephanie Schmidt said. “You are going to have to miss a week of classes.” The team erupted in cheers, laughter, and tears. They were going to nationals for the first time since 2007.
“When we lost against Providence, we were very devastated,” said junior setter and team captain Elissa Pheneger, who recently reached 2000 career assists in October. “We hoped that we would get the bid.”
Six regions comprised of 36 teams are included in the NCCAA Division II, and there are 10 slots open in the tournament. After each region is won by their respective teams, four slots are open for “at-large” bids. Based on the performance of the team this season, the committee of the NCCAA granted the Rams one of the “at-large” bids, and they are in the tournament as the 10th seed. The top two seeds in this tournament are Maranatha Baptist University and Providence University College who then went on to play the championship game. The number one seed Maranatha Baptist became champions after winning the first three sets.
The Rams are a part of two conferences, the NCCAA Division II, and the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC). In the UMAC, they fell just short of going to nationals. The top five seeded teams are going to the UMAC nationals, but the Rams finished sixth.
“They’ve gotten better and better every year. I feel really good,” Schmidt said. When Schmidt came on board in 2012, the Rams had a season record of 2-25. Their records have shown marked improvement since then: in 2013, they were 6-28, and then in 2014, 7-21.
The Rams’ best finish in the NCCAA tournament was a second place finish against Clearwater Christian University from Clearwater, Florida, back in 2000.