By Mike DeVader, Reinhardt Director of Athletic Communications & Media
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The final match of the 2019 season went the distance against fourth-seeded Madonna (Mich.) on Thursday in Sioux City, Iowa, as the Crusaders were able to finish off Reinhardt in five sets and send the Eagles on a three-contest losing streak after a 16-25,25-22,15-25,25-23,11-15 outcome inside the Tyson Events Center at the NAIA Women's Volleyball National Championship, presented by Marriott South Sioux City River Front.
Another great year officially came to a close with a 33-5 overall mark after the Eagles struggled again on the offensive end with a combined hitting percentage of .090.
"This was a tough tournament for us, as we unfortunately played our worst volleyball at the National Championship," head coach Brian Goodhind said. "What is unbelievable is how good Reinhardt Volleyball has come and how we just represented the AAC; think about it. We didn't play well, but just out of pure grit and grind. our girls took very solid programs in the country – No. 10 Lindsey Wilson and the program with the most wins, Madonna (1,230), who are both regulars at the National Championship, to five sets. I can't deny I'm disappointed, but I can't ignore that my team, at its worst, just almost took out two legit programs in the country. To the seniors, I say thank you to them for everything they have poured into this program and University. In three years together you just went 97-20! You helped turn around a program and built a winning culture on and off the court. I am so thankful for each and every young woman on this team.
"To be very open, we dealt with some adversity on this trip that shouldn't have happened, but we teach our players that life is about how we handle those adverse random moments that are going to determine your success. The girls didn't fold, they bonded closer together and this experience should be one that helps the program be able to grow to another level. The standards have changed here at Reinhardt Volleyball; we don't just want to win conference championships... We want to compete to win a national championship. I hope that RU wants me to continue on with the program, as I love these girls. I'm so appreciative of the opportunity President Mallard and Coach Popp have given me to be the head coach and lead Reinhardt Volleyball. Thank you also to my staff; I couldn't do the things I do without them... Thank you CJ and Shelby. To God goes all the Glory."
Set one got away from the hometown squad right from the opening whistle, as Madonna jumped on Reinhardt, 6-0, before the Eagles got on the scoreboard. Goodhind's bunch could never really get a grasp on the first stanza, although getting within four at 18-14, but the Crusaders responded with a 7-2 run to grab a 1-0 lead.
For the third time in as many days, Reinhardt fought an uphill battle trying to dig out of an early deficit. A faster start enabled the Eagles to maintain a couple points between them and the Crusaders nearly wire-to-wire as they held off a late run from the opposition to score four of the last five overall tallies to tie the contest at 1-1.
A slow start matched a slow finish in set three as the Madonna squad quickly jumped back ahead, 2-1, after taking care of business in the game; and just like it had done in the second set, the Eagles recollected themselves and fought back with all their might to hold off the Crusaders as they tried to steal the stanza outcome late – but to no avail.
The pattern of set victories would hold true in the deciding game, unfortunately, as the No. 4 seed would explode to a 9-2 lead in the best-of-15 set. To no one's surprise, Reinhardt put everything it had into the final few scores of the season and came back from being down, 13-4, to get within three tallies at 14-11.
Madonna would then call timeout to set up a play to find a soft spot in the aggressively crashing Eagle defense, and it worked.
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