This week, the fall season took one step closer to its grand finale. Two champions were crowned and there was more clarity on the road to two others.
DII VOLLEYBALL — The national championship field is ready for action
The 64-team bracket has been selected and the volleyball national championships are set to get underway Dec. 3 across the nation.
The Lenoir-Rhyne Bears made program history this past weekend, when they upset top-seeded Wingate — who had won nine consecutive SAC Championships — in the SAC Tournament. It was the first SAC Tournament Championship for the Bears and earned them an automatic bid to the national championships. Seeded No. 7 in the Southeast Region, they face No. 2 Flagler. Flagler also earned an automatic bid, upsetting USC-Aiken in the PBC Tournament finals. USC-Aiken was still able to maintain the top seed in the region.
Winston-Salem State enters the tournament on the heels of their first ever Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association tournament championship. The road unfortunately doesn’t get any easier as they received an eight seed, leaving them to square off against the Central Region’ No. 1 seed Wheeling Jesuit. The Cardinals — who have now hosted the Atlantic Region matches for three consecutive years — are 17-0 at home on the season.
Southwestern Oklahoma State will be heading to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in its program’s history fresh off a Great American Conference tournament victory. They have the daunting task of facing the No. 1 team in the nation in Concordia-St. Paul.
"It felt like what we've been working towards for the past 10 years has finally come to fruition," coach Josh Collins told SWOSU Athletics. "We all know the feat that's ahead of us, but for tonight we are going to celebrate the fact that we got to watch a selection show because we knew we had qualified for the NCAA Tournament and that's a step in the right direction for our program.”
The NSIC had a stronghold on the AVCA poll this season. Five teams from the program sat in the nation’s top ten this season, but it was the nation’s No. 21 team that almost upended the NSIC in the tournament.
Seeded sixth in the conference, Winona State would first upset Northern State — the No. 4 team in the nation — in the first round 3-0 for the program’s first ever NSIC tournament win. It ended the NSU Wolves' — a team that had defeated not one, but two No. 1 ranked programs this season — hopes for a postseason bid. Winona State would then defeat the No. 2 team in the nation in Southwest Minnesota State by a score of 3-2. Their road would end at the hands of the Golden Bears, as Concordia-St. Paul defeated Winona State in the NSIC tourney finals 3-1.
The Golden Bears won their first NSIC championship since 2006. Joining them in the Central Region from the NSIC will be SMSU and Wayne State.
Trevecca Nazarene will make history when they take the court in Big Rapids, Michigan. They defeated Cedarville University 3-0 in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference tournament championship. The win earns them the eighth seed in the Midwest Region, but is also the first automatic bid in G-MAC lore, a conference that started DII play in the 2013-2014 season.
Their road will be a tough one as they face the top seeded Ferris State Bulldogs. FSU is the No. 3 team in the nation and have been the top seed in the Midwest Region all year. The powerhouse recently romped through the GLIAC finals, sweeping all three opponents in each round en route to their second consecutive GLIAC Championship.
DII CROSS COUNTRY — Champion crowned
Adams State — who dominated Cross Country in the 1990s and early 2000s — returned to glory, nabbing their first national championship since 2009. Damon Martin’s squad — who won consecutively from 1992 to 1999 and then again from 2003 to 2009 — was back in familiar territory.
"I'm just extremely happy for them. We have such an unbelievable history of success and the last few years we've fallen a bit short." Martin said to ASU Athletics. "I couldn't be prouder of our seven girls. They ran tough."
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The Grizzlies placed an impressive five runners in the top 30, holding off the three-time reigning champion Grand Valley State. Freshman Noel Prandoni led the way for Adams State in tenth place overall with junior Jenna Thurman a mere 27 seconds behind her.
University of Mary’s Alexis Zeis took the individual championship with a time of 20:03.4 barely holding off GVSU’s Kendra Foley who finished in 20:03.7.
DII FIELD HOCKEY — A first time for everything
For the first time in her 32-year tenure, Coach Sandy Miller led her East Stroudsburg Warriors into the PSAC Tournament as the No. 1 seed and tournament host. She then led her Warriors to their first ever PSAC regular season and tournament titles. Sunday saw yet another first.
ESU now joins the elite as the Warriors captured their first National Championship defeating Merrimack — who was appearing in their first national championship match — 1-0.
Earlier in the season, coach Miller described senior Ally Roth — the 2014 PSAC Offensive Player of the year and two-time All-American — as someone who “scored some great goals for us.” No goal of her ESU career was greater than her decisive goal this past Sunday.
Roth’s penalty stroke into the lower left corner in overtime gave ESU their elusive national championship. She finishes her collegiate career as ESU’s all-time leading goal scorer (74) and points leader (172).
DII SOCCER — Four remain
48 teams started the tournament, and all but four remain. The semifinal round is set for action Dec. 3rd and 5th from Ashton Brosnaham Stadium in Pensacola, Florida.
There are no big surprises in the semifinals as four of the nation’s five top teams are represented. Only one team — Columbus State — was a No. 2 seed in their region while GVSU, Western Washington and Bridgeport were all No. 1s.
Columbus State — the No. 3 team in the Nation — defeated two regional No. 1 seeds on their way to the semifinal, most recently defeating Barry (No. 4) 2-0. They will play Bridgeport (No. 5) on Dec. 3rd. Bridgeport disposed of the upstart sixth seeded East Stroudsburg Warriors, whose run of three straight upsets was brought to an end.
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The other semifinal match will showcase the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country as Grand Valley State faces Western Washington.
“I’m excited that we get to watch this team play another game,” Vikings coach Travis Connell told WWU Athletics after their 3-1 victory over Dallas-Baptist. “We already have a lot to be proud of. We’ve represented our school, our athletic department, and ourselves really well, and getting back to the final four is a huge accomplishment.”
GVSU — who is the two-time defending national champions — had the closest game of the weekend, narrowly escaping Central Missouri (No. 8 in the nation) on penalty kicks.
The Lakers — who reeled off 21 consecutive victories after an opening game loss — found themselves trailing for the first time since that September 4th opener. Two ten minute overtimes and all five penalty kicks later, the Lakers find themselves back in the semifinal, looking for their third straight title.