More than 1,500 watched Midland University's home volleyball opener last year.
Coach Paul Giesselmann can't wait to see the count Wednesday when the Warriors (8-0), off to the best start in program history, take on the College of St. Mary.
“I think there is a lot of talk and buzz on campus,” Giesselmann said. “Our student support here the last couple of years has been unbelievable.”
The teams will meet at 7 p.m. in Fremont. The Flames are 0-1, but Midland hasn't forgotten that it nearly lost at CSM last year.
“I can promise you they will have our full attention,” Giesselmann said. “There is no looking ahead.”
The 13th-ranked Warriors just missed an at-large bid to nationals last fall, which has been a big motivator for them this season.
Seven of Midland's top nine players return, and those veterans don't get rattled in big matches Giesselmann said, which is one of the reasons for the Warriors' early success.
“The other reason, I think we have pretty good balance,” Giesselmann said. “We have several players we can rely on any given night. We don't have one player we have to go to every night.”
Setter Megan Farley, a junior from Syracuse, controls the offense, and has averaged more than 10 assists per game. Freshman outside hitter KC Heimann has done a good job of attacking, hitting .345. Giesselmann also likes what he's seen from junior middle blocker Heather Pribyl, who is hitting .333.
Giesselmann wants to make sure the Warriors don't look past CSM to this weekend's match with No. 12 Bellevue University. The teams play at 1 p.m. Friday in the Bruins' Labor Day Classic.
Midland also plays Peru State at 5 p.m. Friday, then faces No. 15 Viterbo at 9 a.m. Saturday. The Warriors finish Saturday with Kansas Wesleyan at 3 p.m.
It will be good experience as the Warriors gear up for the Great Plains Athletic Conference, which one league coach said could be the toughest it's ever been.
“I think it's as balanced as its been since I've been here,” Giesselmann said. “As far as the depth of our league, it's really good.”
Northwestern, Doane, Dordt and Hastings have big, athletic kids, so they'll always have a chance to win, Giesselmann said. Concordia, which was picked ninth, has added transfer Claire White of Exeter, and is off to its first 4-0 start since 2005.
Nebraska Wesleyan has some good players and Briar Cliff could be a sleeper, Giesselmann said, with a senior-oriented team.
Giesselmann won't say where he expects Midland, which was picked with Northwestern to win the GPAC, to fit into that bunch.
“I just want them to get better in practice tonight,” he said. “As a coach you're always trying to win a championship, but that can't be your focus. We're focusing on today and then we're going to focus on tomorrow. By the time we get to November or December, the thing will play itself out.”
Bellevue's Labor Day tournament will spotlight NAIA volleyball
This weekend's 20-team Labor Day Classic at Bellevue University will be the largest event in the NAIA other than the national tournament.
Five of the teams are ranked in the Top 25 and six are receiving votes. Six qualified for nationals last year, with two making it to the elite eight.
One of the biggest matches will be the No. 13 Bruins' showdown against No. 12 Midland at 1 p.m. Friday.
Doane kicks things off at the Lied Center with a 9 a.m. match Friday against John Brown.
The tournament schedule is available at www.bubruins.com.
“This tournament will be an amazing opportunity for area fans to see how great NAIA volleyball is,” Bellevue coach Trish Siedlik said. “Typically, there is a misconception about NAIA volleyball as far as the level of play and competition.
“We want local athletes to see for themselves how high the level of play is in the NAIA compared to our NCAA counterparts. We highly encourage any athlete considering collegiate volleyball as an option to come and enjoy the action.”