GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – When the Johnson & Wales University women's volleyball team commenced preseason practice in August, a deep run into the NCAA Tournament was off in the distance. The Wildcats' journey took them all the way to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament, but their run was stopped by defending national champion Calvin College, 3-0 (25-21, 25-19, 26-24) on Thursday.
Johnson & Wales: 35-1
Johnson & Wales caps the season with a school-record 35 victories. This season also included the first win over a ranked opponent as well as first national ranking in program history. JWU climbed to as high as eighth in the AVCA Coaches poll.
The Wildcats nearly pushed the match to a fourth-set. An Elyssa Nicolas (Brisbane, Calif.) ace gave JWU a 24-23 advantage, but Tessa Van Laare ended the match with back-to-back kills.
A block from Maria Coniglio (Old Bethpage, NY) and Hannah Dolan (San Clemente, Calif.) gave the Wildcats a 9-7 advantage in the second set. A service error pulled JWU even, 14-14, but the Knights responded with a 7-3 run that included a pair of JWU miscues.
Leading the Wildcats was junior outside hitter Katie Leidhold (Acushnet, Mass.) with a team-best nine kills to go along with 13 digs. Setter Brylee Frank (Palm City, Fla.) dished out 24 assists. Rookies Nicolas and Mikayla Arimura (San Clemente, Calif.) produced a match-high 19 digs.
The Knights limited the Wildcats to a season-low .096 hitting percentage. Both teams dug the ball well with Johnson & Wales holding a 73-71 advantage.
A return trip to the quarterfinals could certainly be in the card for JWU next season. The Wildcats return all of their starters, including All-Americans Kate Walker (Oakland, Calif.), Coniglio, Frank and Leidhold.