Interview with Head Coach Ryan DeLong
La Crosse, Wis. – The Viterbo University volleyball team earned their place in the finals of the Midwest Collegiate Conference Tournament by defeating St. Ambrose University in four sets Wednesday night, with match scores of 21-15, 28-26, 25-23, and 25-17. Sophomore Erica Willadsen (So. – Cochrane, Wis.) and junior Kassie McGettigan (Jr. – La Crosse, Wis.) were the difference makers for the V-Hawks. Willadsen had 13 kills on 22 hitting attempts with only 2 errors for a .500 hitting percentage, as well as 3 total blocks for the night. McGettigan contributed seven kills in big spots of the match for a .300 hitting percentage, while assisting on three blocks for 1.5 total.
The first game was won by the Bees, primarily due to putting the V-Hawks in a 6-1 early deficit. St. Ambrose never relinquished the lead from that point, winning the match 25-21 behind 14 kills. Katherine Wildner led the Bees with five kills while adding six assists. Viterbo struggled with their hitting, shown by their .109 hitting percentage and eight errors.
Game two was a crazy set. The V-Hawks climbed to an early 7-2 lead, but the Bees stormed back to tie the match 9-9 through a four-point streak. The game was tied at 26 a piece until Viterbo scored two points through an Amy Braaksma (Sr. – Randolph, Wis.) kill and an assisted block by Willadsen and Hannah Ripp (Jr. – Merrillan, Wis.) to take the game 28-26.
The score for the third game is very misleading. After falling behind 15-12, Viterbo scored nine straight points to take the lead 21-15. Once the V-Hawks reached game point at 24-17, the Bees rattled off six points consecutively before McGettigan's kill to end the game 25-23. Viterbo had only three errors in 38 attempts and a .263 hitting percentage, compared to a .170 hitting percentage for St. Ambrose.
Set four was dominated by the V-Hawks. Viterbo only allowed the Bees to score three points on their own serve while forcing a side out on 10 of their 13 serves. The V-Hawks had their best hitting percentage of the night, .282, on their way to the set and match victory.
Brianna Brinkman (Fr. – St. Charles, Minn.) and Jerica Nelson (So. – Fennimore, Wis.) shared the setting responsibilities by racking up 23 and 21 assists respectively. Braaksma set the single-season kills record for Viterbo with her 509th kill of the season. She now has 520 kills for the year by leading the V-Hawks with 17 kills on the night through 52 total attempts. The team was solid defensively, as shown by 24 digs by Jordan Blaken (Jr. – Melrose, Wis.) and 4 total blocks by Ripp through two solo and four assisted blocks.
The V-Hawks will travel to Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday to face #1 Grand View University (37-7). Match time is set for 7:00 pm. These two teams met in early October with Grand View dominating the match by winning 25-17, 25-17, 25-18. This is the second time in three years the V-Hawks have advanced to the MCC Championship game.