Volleyball claims first-ever division title, trip to national tournament

Friday, December 20, 2013 6:05:00 AM


by: Paige Quiñones, '14

The Cardinal Stritch University Women’s Volleyball team took the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) by storm and clinched the North Division title with an impressive conference record of 15-2 and an overall record of 28-13 this season. The season concluded with the team receiving a bid to the national tournament for the first time in Stritch volleyball history.

The team got off to a rough start at the beginning of the season, facing two of the Top 10 NAIA teams in preseason play and losing all four tournament games. However, upon returning to their home court, the Wolves dominated and achieved an astonishing 9-0 record in home conference competitions. The team then went on a hot streak, winning 11 straight games and taking first place in the Waldorf Tournament. The explosive play of the Wolves resulted in two more pivotal wins, including one against first-place Trinity Christian College and another from fourth-place Olivet Nazarene University, and they secured a perfect record at the second CCAC Crossover Tournament.

“Having a rocky start to the season, then having everyone come together and turn it around and make it to nationals made this season that much more special,” said senior outside hitter Monique Morris. “It shows the true character and determination in every person individually as well as a team.”

The Wolves went on to secure the third seed in the CCAC playoffs and hosted the first round against St. Xavier University where they claimed victory in three straight sets and advanced to the quarterfinals to face Roosevelt University. The Wolves battled it out against Roosevelt for the last home match of the season on Panella Court with a victory in three straight sets. That set the stage for a final match versus Trinity Christian where they ultimately lost the overall championship title.

“The hard work that we put in throughout the year really started to pay off once we started dominating in conference play and took first place in our division,” Morris said. “I’ll never forget the excitement that I felt once we beat Roosevelt and secured a bid to the national tournament and the chance to fight for the conference title against Trinity Christian.”

Despite the loss to Trinity Christian, the Wolves were able to make history by securing a spot in the NAIA national tournament. At nationals, the Wolves faced 15th-ranked Dordt College of Sioux, Iowa, in the first round. Stritch let the first and second sets slip 25-22 and 25-16. Players Monique Morris and Amanda Aalpoel rallied the Wolves to take the third set 25-19. Yet, Dordt came roaring back and took the fourth set 25-19, sending Dordt into the next round of tournament play and concluding the most successful season for the women’s volleyball team.

The talent of the 2013 season did not go unrecognized as Monique Morris, Melissa Murphy, and Jasmine King earned All-Conference First Team honors. For the second consecutive year, one of Strich’s own, Jasmine King, earned the Freshmen of the Year award.

“I was honored and surprised to get such an award when our conference had so many talented freshmen,” King said. “I would not have been able to receive such an honor without help from my team.”

This was Head Coach Natalie Wildes’ fifth season at Stritch. In addition to coaching the women’s team, Wildes is also the head coach of the men’s volleyball team, which will begin practicing Jan. 5 to prepare for their first preseason match of the season on Jan. 16 at Lakeland College.