FRANK CUSHMAN | SPORTS EDITOR
The St. Norbert volleyball team started the year with a really tough non-conference schedule and their record showed it. At the end of September they were sitting at 6-12, but they had yet to start conference play.
First beating Lawrence then losing to 4 time defending MWC champ Cornell, the Green Knights went on a roll in October. Posting a 8-2 record and beating every conference opponent besides Cornell.
It was a wild season in the MWC this year. Lawrence finish 4th, making their first tournament appearance since the current 4 team format was adopted. Grinnell, picked to finish 9th in the preseason coaches poll, pulled off an unbelievable season finishing 3rd and making their first MWC tournament in 5 years. The top two in the conference came as no surprise though. It’s been the matchup in the conference final the last 4 years, St. Norbert and Cornell. The field was set and the first weekend of October, the best in the Midwest came to Cornell to battle for a place in the NCAA tournament.
First St. Norbert would face Grinnell. The Green Knights dispatched the Pioneers quickly, winning 25-15, 25- 15, 15-14 to advance to their 9th consecutive championship match. Cornell faced off against Lawrence advancing easily 25-15, 25-15, 25-9. This would set the 5th consecutive rematch of St. Norbert vs. Cornell in the conference championship final.
The Green Knights would clinch their first MWC tournament championship and NCAA tournament bid since 2011 that day. In a 5 set thriller the Green Knights outlasted Cornell 25-17, 23-25, 13-25, 25-23, 15-12. They managed to overcome a 2-1 deficit and managed a come from behind 4th set victory to propel them into a 5th set which they never trailed.
The Green Knights awaited their name to be called during the selection show on Monday the 6th of November. They were told they would be traveling to the University of Northwestern in Roseville, MN, to battle the Northwestern Eagles. The Eagle came in making their 7th consecutive tournament appearance, they advancing to the Sweet Sixteen last year.
It was a tough match for the Green Knights as they fell 3-0 to a strong Northwestern side. The Northwestern attack proved to be too dominant winning 25-13, 25-12, 25-16. The Eagles have advanced commandingly to the Elite Eight with a 3-0 win over La Crosse and a 3-2 victory over Cal Lutheran. They await their matchup in the quarters.
This season was an enormous accomplishment for the Green Knights who dethroned powerhouse Cornell, behind the strength of a strong senior group and a group of underclassmen who showed like veterans. This win was long in the coming for seniors Aubree Antosch, Anika Johnson and Hannah Johnshoy. They have been a conference powerhouse all four years and fell each of the last three seasons to Cornell in the MWC championship. The satisfaction of getting this victory makes all those seasons worth it.
The three seniors were the only upperclassmen on the team this year. 12 of the 15 were underclassmen and 8 of the 15 were freshmen. That kind of success with that kind of youth bodes very well for the next 4 years of Green Knights volleyball.
The volleyball team had four selections to the all conference team. Senior middle, Anika Johnson was selected to the first team all conference. Senior libero, Aubree Antosch was also honored with a first team all conference selection. This was her second all conference nod, receiving a second team selection last season. Sophomore outside hitter, Halie Ferry was chosen for the second team this season. This is her second all conference selection in two years. Last year she received a first team selection. Finally, Freshmen middle, Lexi Van Hiel was picked to the second team and received the MWC Newcomer of the year award.
Congratulations to the seniors for an excellent career and congratulations to the team on a wonderful season.