CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The Wheeling Jesuit volleyball team made history on Thursday taking their first ever NCAA Elite Eight victory with a 3-0 win over No. 9 Wingate University 25-19, 25-19, 25-17.
The Cardinals now advance to the NCAA DII Final Four tonight and will face six-time defending national cfhampions, University of Concordia - St. Paul at 8:30 immediately following the other semifinal between West Texas A&M University and BYU-Hawaii.
WJU has now won 14 straight matches, 13 of which have been 3-0 victories.
"We wanted to come out today and break their rhythm and contain their performers," said WJU head coach Christy Benner at the post game press conference. "We wanted to be the aggressor out there, and run our fast offense."
Kayce Krucki and Jenna Pew controlled the attack for the Cardinals in the first set, with six kills each. Krucki was especially effective on both sides of the net with four digs to match Makenzie Ripley's four. WJU had 18 total kills to the Bulldog's nine.
The Cardinals led the first set 10-9 before Wingate took a brief lead at 14-11. WJU Then charged back to take a 16-14 lead and force a timeout by the Bulldogs. The Cardinals didn't look back, taking the first set 25-19, with the WJU outside hitters proving too strong.
In the second set the Bulldogs took the first point of the set, but the Cardinals quickly reclaimed the lead and would not relinquish it for the rest of the game. The Bulldogs would hang tough however. WJU took a timeout with Wingate closing quick at 16-14, but WJU focused and would not look back, taking the set 25-19.
The third set belonged to the Cardinals from start to finish with WJU pulling away for the 25-17 victory, and piece of WJU athletics history.
Leading the Cardinals in the stats column was Krucki and Pew who finished with 13 kills apiece, with Krucki continuing her defensive effort with 12 digs. Makenzie Ripley again finished strong defensively with 15 digs. Perhaps the most telling stat of the evening belonged to Andrea Thobe who guided the Cardinal attack with 37 assists.
Coach Benner and the Cardinals now face the challenge of dethroning Concordia St-Paul.
"Concordia is a very, very good team," said Benner. "We can't take plays off, we have to be ready for anything. We just need to try to apply pressure to them."