Wheeling Jesuit entered the quarterfinals of the Divison II women's volleyball championship in the midst of an impressive run of domination. The Cardinals hadn’t dropped a set during their first three NCAA tournament matches and had only lost one set in their previous nine matches.
However, Arkansas Fort-Smith, winners of its previous 32 matches, took the opening set on Thursday, giving Wheeling Jesuit its first deficit in a month.
For a program that was making its fifth straight trip to the quarterfinals but had only advanced to the semifinal once during that span, fear would be a natural feeling after falling behind early. Not for the Cardinals, who stormed back and took the match's final three sets to advance.
“I wasn’t fearful at all that we weren’t going to make it,” Wheeling Jesuit coach Christy Benner said. “We’ve never given up on them; they’re great girls.”
"We all just looked at each other and said, ‘Why not us?’", junior Emma Schleucher said.
The Cardinals proved their mettle and prevented history from repeating itself. And now that the quarterfinal hurdle has been cleared, Wheeling Jesuit isn’t looking back.
“This is an awesome experience, and it’s so fun to get to the next round and strive to stay here as long as we possibly can until we come away with the trophy hopefully.” junior Haley Kindall said.
The Cardinals find themselves in the perfect position heading to the semifinal: alive and battle tested.
“[Arkansas Fort-Smith] definitely tested us, they did a great job of adjusting to us, so that’s very important,” Kindall said. “They really tested us and did a great of job of preparing us for the future.”
Wheeling Jesuit will look to get one step closer to that elusive first championship in program history on Friday when they take on the winner of Thursday afternoon’s contest between Rockhurst and Western Washington.