Apr 15, 2024

Coyote MVB ousts Ottawa, reaches first GPAC Semifinal

Posted Apr 15, 2024 1:11 PM

Dustin Sahlmann's second season at coach of the Kansas Wesleyan men's volleyball team has produced several noteworthy firsts - their victory Saturday night the pinnacle.

KWU, the No. 4 seed, defeated fifth-seeded Ottawa 3-1 (25-21, 25-19, 24-26, 25-16) in a quarterfinal match of the Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament inside Mabee Arena. It was the first home playoff game in program history, the first postseason victory and it assured the Coyotes of their first winning record (14-12) in their third year of existence.

"This is a season of firsts and we need to keep that going," Sahlmann said. "(The guys) embrace that, they enjoy reaching those milestones. For us as a program as young as we are and doing what we're doing right now is going to help us long term. It's going to help us on the recruiting front, it's going to help us with confidence and belief."

Wesleyan will play its first-ever conference tournament semifinal against top-seeded and NAIA No. 9-ranked Jamestown at 7 p.m. Friday in Jamestown, North Dakota.

The Coyotes' produced one of their best efforts of the season against an Ottawa team they had split with during the regular season. They hit at a .273 percentage, had 13 service aces and 14 block assists.

They also showed resiliency, something that had been an issue. KWU led Morningside 2-0 but lost 3-2 in a March 30 match in Mabee Arena. The Coyotes won the first two sets Saturday before Ottawa took the third.

"They weren't happy after that third set, we came out and showed how we felt in set four," Sahlmann said. "They're a very resilient group, they don't let a whole lot of things affect them long term. They're still trying to learn a little bit of what it takes to close things out."

Zayin Martinez led the attack with 15 kills on a .314 hitting percentage while Justin Burras and Viet Nguyen had 13 apiece - Nguyen hitting .300 percent and Burras .257 percent. Tyler McUne set the offense with 39 assists. Martinez also had four service aces.

Defensively Jeremy Lapeze had 16 digs and Martinez 11 and Martinez and Cooper Stepp each had four block assists.

"We did a lot of things well," Sahlmann said. "It doesn't necessarily look like it on paper but we served extremely well. We worked all week on serving seams and putting the ball where it needed to go and I thought we did a fantastic job of that. We worked a lot on blocking and I felt like our blocking was really good again today. We added some wrinkles offensively and we used those and those helped us as well."

The first set was close throughout but Ottawa (16-14) never led. Clinging to a 19-17 lead the Coyotes gave themselves a cushion by scoring three of the next four points. A Martinez kill accounted for set point.

The second set a mirror image of the first. Leading 20-18 the Coyotes scored five of the final six points for the victory.

Ottawa led most of the third set but KWU rallied and tied it 23-23 and again 24-24 before the Braves scored the last two points.

Ottawa had an 8-4 lead in the fourth set but the Coyotes stormed back with an 15-2 run and led 19-10. The Braves got within 21-15 before a 4-1 surge carried KWU to the set and match victory.

Sahlmann said his team has nothing to lose in Friday's semifinal.

"Our message Monday through Thursday before we take off to go up there is to be relaxed," he said. "We don't have any pressure on us and it is on them. We're going to be fresh and we're going to be pretty close to full strength so hopefully we can give them a run for their money."