Bellevue’s volleyball team is back at work, preparing for this weekend’s opponent.

Following Friday’s loss in the North Star tournament semifinals, the Bruins weren’t certain they’d be gathering for practice again this fall.

Bellevue dropped a five-setter to then-unranked Dakota State in the semifinals. It was Bellevue’s third loss to Dakota State this season, and coach Trish Siedlik thought that loss might leave her team on the wrong side of the NAIA national tournament bubble.

“Friday night after we lost, they were devastated,” Siedlik said.

The Bruins (26-8) had to wait until Monday morning, when the NAIA announced the tournament field, to find out whether their season would continue.

Bellevue got its wish as it received an at-large bid. The Bruins are one of 24 teams that will play in the tournament’s opening round on Saturday. The 12 winners of those matches advance to Sioux City and will be part of the 32-team tournament, which begins Dec. 3.

Bellevue lost an opening-round road match last season. This time the Bruins will host Lincoln (Ill.). That match takes place at 1 p.m. at Bellevue West High School.

“When they saw we didn’t have to travel, that’s when they were excited,” Siedlik said of her team.

It’s the 11th time in the past 13 years that Bellevue has qualified for the NAIA postseason. This is a very young Bellevue team with no seniors and only one junior, Andrea Carson, who is second on the team in kills.

The team’s quarterback is sophomore setter Olivia Galas, who was named the North Star player of the year. The Omaha Gross graduate is fourth in the NAIA in assists and has 14 double-doubles this season.

Carson and Galas are among the returning starters from last season.

“Our freshmen and sophomores saw how much it hurt the seniors to be so close (to reaching Sioux City) last year,” Siedlik said. “They’ve put in a lot of hard work in the offseason to get where they want to be. ... They have the drive.”

Also playing an opening-round home match Saturday will be College of St. Mary, which hosts Lincoln Christian (Ill.) at 7 p.m.

St. Mary is in the NAIA field for the first time since 2006 thanks to its run to the GPAC tournament title match last weekend. Concordia, ranked 15th nationally, automatically qualified for the tournament in Sioux City. Midland, which lost to St. Mary in the GPAC tourney semifinals, was narrowly left out of the NAIA tournament.

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In other Midlands notes:

  • Two GPAC teams from Nebraska are in the NAIA soccer tournaments. The Hastings and Midland men play road matches Friday, while the Hastings women also are on the road Friday. The Midland women (17-2-1) earned the No. 15 seed and a home match to start nationals. The Warriors will play at UNO’s Caniglia Field at 2 p.m. Saturday against the winner of the MidAmerica Nazarene-Rocky Mountain game.
  • The GPAC also announced its all-conference teams. For the women, Midland’s Nayeli Rodriguez was the offensive player of the year and Midland goalie Rachel Thigpen was defensive player of the year, while Fernando Lisboa of Hastings was the men’s defensive player of the year.
  • For the second time in program history, UNK’s football team was selected to play in a bowl game. The 6-5 Lopers will play 8-3 Winona State in the Mineral Water Bowl in Excelsior Springs, Missouri, at noon on Dec. 7. UNK’s only other bowl appearance was in 1955.
  • UNK’s volleyball team finished the regular season 30-0 and is the top seed for the MIAA tournament, which starts Thursday. UNK is No. 2 in the NCAA Division II rankings, while Wayne State moved up one spot to No. 12.
  • Bellevue’s men’s basketball team (4-3) earned a huge upset Saturday when it rallied from 19 down for a 79-78 win over Wayland Baptist, the No. 3 team in NAIA Division I. Plattsmouth’s Connor Dukes hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left for the game-winning shot. Bellevue hit 15 3s in the game.
  • Nebraska Wesleyan’s Caitlin Navratil scored the second-most points in a game in school history when she had 37 in a 79-71 win over McMurry on Saturday. In the men’s game against McMurry, Nate Schimonitz had 35 points and 10 assists. The Omaha Creighton Prep grad is averaging 29.8 points and 6.5 assists through four games.
  • Northeast Community College is the seventh seed for the NJCAA Division II volleyball tournament, which begins Thursday in West Virginia.

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