Ottawa continues to improve its blocking. The Lady Braves cover a lot court on defense and serves well.
This has been a dream season for Ottawa, which did not lose a match to a Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference team this season.
Ottawa went 18-0 to win the regular season title and won three matches last week to take the KCAC Tournament title. Ottawa bested Kansas Wesleyan Saturday in three sets (25-22, 25-16, 25-19) in Wilson Field House.
Ottawa (30-5) qualified for the NAIA National Tournament. Ottawa plays 1 p.m. Saturday at No. 23 Bellevue, Neb.
This was Ottawa’s first KCAC championship since 2004.
Ottawa enters NAIA first round action riding an 18-match winning streak and going 22-1 in the past 23 matches.
“It is really special,” Ottawa senior Kristen Hendrickson. “It is going to be crazy.”
Fourth-year coach Tom Symons rebuilt the program after a few down seasons in the mid-2000s.
“It has been a process,” Symons said. “I am so happy for the seniors.
“They know exactly where it started and now where it is at. It has been work. It has been a balance. Them all buying in and then believing.”
Ottawa came close the past couple of years, finishing as the tourney runner-up in 2011.
“It made the objective more tangible,” Symons said.
Ottawa is a tough team to play because of the versatility.
Symons said it is a different player in each match that carries the Lady Braves.
“It is never the same one,” he said. “We are hard to defend.”
Hendrickson said, “We have the whole team. We have a good back row, we have huge blocks, we have hitters. It is good to have more than one hitter.”
Ottawa showed that in the title match with five players between eight and 11 kills, led by Nicole Gingery’s 11.
Ottawa’s court demeanor does not change much, which allows the Lady Braves to keep valleys at a minimum.
“It has been a mentally solid team,” Symons said.
Hendrickson said the players understand as a group they can overcome momentum swings.
“We need to focus on what is going on our side of the court,” she said. “We try to stay calm.”
Ottawa put on a show in front of a big and loud crowd.
“Our crowd really helped us,” Hendrickson said. “This was the championship game.”
Hendrickson said other students and athletes support each other.
“We all cheer for each other,” Hendrickson said. “Football came back from their game and came here.”
Nicole Gingery: 11 kills, 4 digs.
Taylor Bridge: 9 kills, 3 aces, 9 digs.
Kristen Hendrickson: 8 kills, 11 digs.
Chrissie Jeannin: 37 assists, 2 kills, 11 digs.
Becca Colson: 9 kills.
Allie Arnold: 9 kills, .450 hitting.