Jeff Braun, Sports Information Director
FREMONT – In front of an energetic crowd, No. 8-ranked Midland University edged out Doane University in five sets (24-25, 25-21, 25-13, 13-25, 17-15) on Wednesday night to open up Great Plains Athletic Conference play. The Warriors have now won their conference opener for the ninth consecutive year and their home conference opener for the ten years.
Those two streaks looked in jeopardy in the opening set as Doane controlled momentum early, building a 7-1 lead, and then held on late to win by two in extra points. The Tigers took advantage of 13 hitting errors by the Warriors to gain the lead despite hitting just .026 for the set with 8 kills. Midland had 13 kills to match the errors as they hit .000 percent.
The second set was nearly as close with the teams trading points up until a 17-17 tie. That’s when Midland went on a 3-0 rally to gain control of the match and won by four. They hit significantly better in the second as they once again had 13 kills but limited their miscues to just 5 hitting errors (.163). Doane hit .021 with 10 kills and 9 errors.
After the extended break between the second and third sets, Midland came out a more focused group taking the third rather easily. They jumped out to a 6-0 lead and then extended that to 18-9 later on. The Warriors hit .189 in the set off of 12 kills. At the net they blocked four of Doane’s attacks as the Tigers hit for a -.029.
The tables turned in the fourth though literally as Doane matched Midland’s eight point win the third. They did it with solid defense, taking away the Warriors’ angles and digging up balls left and right. They would record 20 digs as a team in the set. Their attack also was improved as they hit over .100 for the first time in the evening with 10 kills in the set. Midland had their worst hitting set of the night, going for a -.073 with eight errors and only five kills.
With everything knotted at two sets a piece the fifth and final set did not disappoint the crowd of over 1,000 fans. The two teams once again traded points with ties at nearly every juncture. There were eight ties with the last coming at 15-15. Midland would get the final two points via a Tiger error and then a kill by Taylor Petersen.
“There were times tonight where I didn’t think we played as a very smart team, but it was a typical GPAC match where you know every point is going to be hard to come by,” said head coach Paul Giesselmann after the match. “As poor as we were offensively, I thought both teams were really good defensively. I really what our team did both at the net blocking and behind the block. The biggest takeaway for me was how our team responded in the fifth game after we went down 11-8. We showed a ton of fight, a lot of composure, and that is what it takes for teams that want to play in December.”
Team defense showed up on the stat sheet as three different Warriors had 20 or more digs and three others were a part of 5 points each at the net. Hope Leimbach finished with 22 digs to go with her 21 set assists (both team-highs) while Jaisa Russell and Taliyah Flores both had 20 digs. Maggie Hiatt (8), Taylor Petersen (6) and Sydney Morehouse (5) lead the way at the net in block assists.
Midland (9-3, 1-0 GPAC) will get the weekend off as they are not scheduled to play again until Wednesday, September 11 at (RV) Morningside (7-2, 0-1 GPAC). First serve is slated for 7:30 p.m. in Sioux City, Iowa.