By RICK SOLEM
SIOUX CITY, Iowa. – You’re going to have to beat them anyway.
Why not now?
At 5:45 p.m. tonight, the Viterbo University volleyball team will play the No. 1 team in the country and the winner will move on to the final four in the NAIA tournament.
The ninth-ranked and ninth-seeded V-Hawks got by No. 7-ranked and eighth-seeded Northwestern, winning 3-1 (25-22, 27-25, 24-26, 25-23) Friday morning.
Now, on to top-seeded and top-ranked Rocky Mountain (32-2) and its 31-match win streak in the quarterfinals at the Tyson Center.
The V-Hawks (38-8) will have to contain 6-foot middle Yang Yang, who is sixth in the nation in kills. She had 22 kills in their last pool-play win. Her season high is 25 kills. She is fifth in the NAIA in hitting percentage (.383).
Viterbo has a power hitter of its own in 6-foot senior Alicia Olson, who leads the NAIA in kills. Her season-high is 35. She, however, is no where near as efficient as Yang, with a hitting average of .275.
Viterbo setter Brianna Brinkman – who’s fifth in the NAIA in assists – was having knee soreness during Thursday’s game, so the coaching staff rested her for Friday’s potential doubleheader.
It paid off. All she did against Northwestern was run the show. The V-Hawks’ all-time assists leader finished with 37 to go along with nine digs.
Olson finished with 18 kills, 12 digs and four block-assists. Teammates Sara Biermaier and Natalie Geidel each had 12 and 11 kills, respectively. Jennifer Krentz had 27 digs, while Jess Jerde and Baylee Gross added 14 and 12, respectively.
The V-Hawks didn’t hit great. They finished with 57 kills, 24 errors and a .172 hitting percentage. Their defense, however, came up with 26 block-assists, while Northwestern had 64 kills, 32 errors and a .167 percentage.
This is the second time in school history – and in the last three seasons – Viterbo has been to the elite eight. Two seasons ago, this is where their run ended, losing to the eventual NAIA runners-up.