Nov. 18, 2013
Volleyball heads to MIAA Tournament with confidenceBy David Boyce | Northwest at Washburn | Tuesday, Nov. 19 | 7 p.m. | Topeka, Kan.
MARYVILLE, Mo. - Given the way Northwest Missouri State volleyball team earned the No. 7 seed in the MIAA Tournament don’t be surprised if the Bearcats float into Lee Arena Tuesday evening on the mystical Cloud Nine.
The Bearcats, 12-17 overall, will be the underdogs when they take on No. 2 seed Washburn at 7 p.m. The Ichabods finished tied for first in the MIAA with Central Missouri with a gaudy 15-1 conference record.
Northwest, though, proved on Friday evening in its last regular-season home match that it can overcome bad odds.
It certainly appeared the Bearcats’ season was going to end Friday at Bearcat Arena. Northwest went into its match against Southwest Baptist knowing it had to win to have an opportunity at one of the last two spots remaining in the conference tournament.
After dropping the first two sets, 25-22 and 25-20, the Bearcats were staring at a somewhat sad finish for senior middle hitter Mackie Keller and senior setter Bridget Hanafin.
No senior volleyball player likes to lose her last game at home.
“At first, I felt like we didn’t have as much energy, but as soon as things started going our way and we were pulling together, it was amazing,” Keller said Saturday. “We had so much energy.”
Northwest won the third set 25-22 and kept getting better. The Bearcats took the fourth set 25-19 and won the final set 15-9.
“It was like the coolest feeling,” Keller said. “It is something I will remember forever, for sure.”
It was a storybook ending that produces tears of joy and leaves everybody happy. Northwest still had to wait for a few results on Saturday to know for sure they had earned a spot in the conference tournament.
But the players left Bearcat Arena Friday evening realizing they had accomplished something unforgettable.
“I think they were so happy that they were speechless,” said Northwest junior Abby Graves about Keller and Hanafin. “We all sat in the locker room after the game and looked at each other and then head coach Amy Woerth and assistant coach Alana Wittenburg came down hitting our hands and it kind of erupted from there.
“It was definitely fulfilling knowing we help them end on a good note. That is something they are going to hold on forever. It is a feeling that doesn’t go away. I think all of us were more than honored to be able to say that we helped them do that.”
The Bearcats want to do more than put up a good battle against Washburn. They are going to Topeka with the mindset that they are going to win.
Despite losing 3-0 both times to Washburn this season, the Bearcats have confidence.
“It is going to be fun,” Graves said. “They are a challenge, but if it wasn’t a challenge, it wouldn’t be fun.”
Keller said they are going to bring the same attitude that helped them overcome a 2-0 deficit against Southwest Baptist.
“We have nothing to lose,” Keller said. “We are just excited.”
Graves added, “Now is the time of the season where it counts. Now we are really focusing on that and giving it all we got. That’s all you can do.”
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