It feels even better than it did last year, Adriana Skipper said.
The senior setter on the Ottawa University volleyball team was excited for her team after Saturday’s sweep of Bethany College clinched the Lady Braves’ third straight conference championship, and an automatic bid to the NAIA Tournament.
“We are excited, and it is going to be a different outcome than last year,” Skipper said, referencing last year’s first round loss in the national tournament. “We are trying to host again, so we need that revenge.”
But the focus for now will be on the approaching Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Hutchinson Sports Arena. Ottawa (25-9, 19-3 KCAC) is set to play starting 1 p.m. Thursday against Oklahoma Wesleyan. The team then plays 5 p.m. Thursday against Bethany College, and 11 a.m. Friday against McPherson College to round out pool play.
“Obviously it is always nice to have the automatic bid because it takes a lot of pressure off of the conference tournament, but for us we just want to take it one game at a time,” Melissa Blessington, OU head volleyball coach, said. “We are not trying to look at nationals at this point, we just want to take care of the conference tournament.”
Ottawa’s 25-17, 25-21, 25-15 win over Bethany Saturday at Wilson Field House in Ottawa locked the Lady Braves in as the conference’s top team. Kansas Wesleyan also finished with a 19-3 conference record, but – per KCAC rule – OU wins the tiebreaker after beating the Lady Coyotes in both head-to-head matches this season.
Against the Swedes, Yuleika Jimenez once again led Ottawa in kills, finishing with 16. Kenna Hall, junior middle blocker, had 11 kills. Skipper finished with a double-double, tallying 30 assists and 14 digs.
Blessington noted Jimenez has brought stability to Ottawa’s outside attack.
“When Taylor [Fortner] got hurt — and she’s been doing a fantastic job — we needed someone to step up in there,” Blessington said. “It took [Jimenez] an adjustment period of about three weeks to get used to what we did. It has been great to give her the ball and say, ‘Ok, hit it.’ It has also taken the pressure off of Kenna [Hall], who is having an All-American year. Kaylee Whittington also played awesome [against Bethany], and Makayla Aspegren is also coming on strong. They are all just peaking at the right time.”
And with postseason on its way, one thing is important, Skipper said — focus.
“We just have to work on the little things that we mess up in games because we do need to clean up some of our issues,” she said. “Just focus on the little bitty things because we’ve got hitting down, we’ve got our serve receive down now, we’ve just got to focus on being calm in chaotic situations.”