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DWU volleyball defeats Northwestern in five-set GPAC tournament quarterfinal thriller

The Tigers won the first, fourth and fifth sets to advance to the semifinals on Nov. 10.

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The Dakota Wesleyan University volleyball team defeated Northwestern 3-2 to win the first round of the Great Plains Athletic Conference tournament on Saturday, November 5, 2021 at the Christen Family Athletic Center. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

Coming from behind to win the fourth and fifth sets, the Dakota Wesleyan volleyball program edged Northwestern in a Great Plains Athletic Conference quarterfinal match Saturday night at the Christen Family Athletic Center.

After winning the first set 27-25, the fourth-seeded Tigers (23-8) dropped the second and third sets to the fifth-seeded Red Raiders (17-10), forcing DWU to make a comeback while playing on its home court in GPAC tournament play for the first time in program history. Set scores were 27-25, 26-28, 13-25, 25-15 and 16-14.

In the first set, the Tigers trailed 8-13, brought it back to 15-15, took a 24-22 lead, then surrendered it at 24-25 before winning the final three points to take the set.

DWU looked poised to take a 2-0 lead in the match, winning eight of 10 points to take a 23-19 lead in the second set, but Northwestern closed the frame on an equally strong run to level the score at 1-1. The Red Raiders retained some of that momentum gained late in the second set to control the third, winning 18 of the final 22 points to take the edge in the match.

The Tigers returned the favor in set No. 4, winning 25-15 to send the postseason match to a fifth and deciding set.

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In the final frame, DWU jumped out to an 8-4 lead and hung on to win 16-14, advancing the Tigers to the GPAC tournament semifinals.

Ady Dwight led the Tigers with 17 kills, followed closely by 15 from Mackenzie Miller, as DWU hit .165 as a team, ahead of the .145 mark set by the Red Raiders. Mariah Gloe added nine kills, including the one that put DWU ahead 15-14 in the final set, and 21 digs, good for second on the team behind the 34 digs notched by Hanna Reiff. Madeline Else put up 54 assists and 14 digs.

Northwestern was led by 18 kills by Alysen Dexter and 11 from Macay Van’t Hul. Jadeyn Schutt (28) and Olivia Granstra (25) each notched double-digit assists for the Red Raiders, who also got 36 digs from Emily Strasser.

The two teams had split during the regular season, as DWU won 3-0 on Sept. 15 in Mitchell and Northwestern won 3-1 on Sept. 29 in Orange City, Iowa.

Next up for DWU is a Nov. 10 semifinal date with No. 1 seed Jamestown (28-0), which swept Doane on Saturday night. The match will be played in Jamestown, North Dakota, where the Tigers fell in their regular-season finale on Nov. 2.

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