WHITEWATER, Wis.—The Bethel University volleyball team recorded another historic moment in its unforgettable season Saturday evening, as the Royals (25-9) defeated the University of Northwestern-St. Paul in a thrilling five-set NCAA Region Championship match. The victory over the Eagles (28-9) rewarded BU with its first-ever region title and Elite 8 appearance.
With the win Bethel will now travel to Grand Rapids, Michigan next week to compete against the final eight teams remaining amongst all NCAA Division III volleyball squads nationwide. The Royals already know that they will face Hendrix College, who defeated No. 2-ranked Emory University, in the quarterfinal matchup.
Those able to attend or watch Saturday night's match between the Eagles and Royals were treated to high-intensity volleyball. BU came out with an electrifying 25-18 victory in the opening set, but UNW fought off four Bethel set points in the second and came back to win 29-27.
The Royals rebounded with a 25-22 victory in the third, only to see the Eagles go off on a 12-4 run to begin the fourth game. That jolt enabled Northwestern to even the score at 2-2 with a 25-16 win in the set.
Despite a crushing defeat in the fourth frame, Bethel regrouped and came back in the fifth and final set to win 15-11. The two opponents were knotted at 5-5, but BU stayed in the driver's seat throughout the rest of the game and went on to capture the 3-2 match victory.
BU posted 90 points throughout the night, which included 70 kills, five aces, and 15 blocks, opposed to the Eagles, who collected 73 points on 63 kills, two aces, and eight blocks. Bethel finished the match with 68 assists and 81 digs, while UNW recorded 61 and 79, respectively.
Following the match, three Bethel individuals were honored with region awards. Kristin Stern and Nicole Deberry were each honored to the All-Tournament team, while Carlee Hoppe received All-Tournament team recognition and the region's Most Outstanding Player award. Hoppe finished the night with 20 kills, 13 digs, and a hitting percentage of .294, while Stern composed 17 digs, three blocks, and a hitting percentage of .419. Tegan LaBerge added 15 kills and five blocks, while Nicole Deberry ended with 10 kills and 2.5 blocks. Katie Lubben led all players on the court with 39 assists, alongside a team-high 21 digs, while teammate Mikayla Morrow posted 22 and seven. Kali Johnson was credited with 19 digs.
The Royals will take on Hendrix College in the Elite 8 matchup on Thursday, November 19. More details about next weekend's events will be posted during the upcoming week at bethelroyals.com.