WAYNE — In what was truly a "great day to be a Wildcat," the Wayne State College volleyball team closed out its home version of this season with a sweep over the University of Minnesota-Duluth 26-24, 25-17 and 25-17.
After derailing the Bulldogs in the first set, the Wildcats held serve the rest of the way as they prepare for conference tournament action next week at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with the matches beginning Thursday, Nov. 18.
On a Senior Day that honored only one senior — Lauren Jacobsen — the young Wayne State team improved to 21-7 overall on the season and 14-6 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
"This was a great win for us, as is any win in this conference," Wayne State coach Scott Kneifl said. "In the second and third sets, we got our defense and our block working. The wheels could have come off later in that first set, but we came together and got through it."
The Wildcats were up 21-18 in the opening race to 25 when a Minnesota-Duluth kill made it 21-19 and an ace serve by Madison Gordon made it 21-20.
A Jazlin DeHaan kill and a hitting error by the Bulldogs made it 23-20 but after a timeout by Minnesota-Duluth, the Bulldogs made a run to tie it up at 23-23.
"I was happy we took care of business at that time," Kneifl said. "If you lose that first set, you're in for a battle all night long — it was good to come back and finish the set and get up in the match."
Maggie Brahmer slammed a winner for Wayne State to make it 24-23, but Minnesota-Duluth got a winner from Cianna Selbitschka to even the set.
Selbitschka made an error on the other side of the court to put the Wildcats up 25-24 and Brahmer finished the opening set with another winner, one of her seven in the best-of-five sweep, to close out the first set and set her team up for the match.
"It is always so important to get out and win the first set," Kneifl said. "It sets you up to take on the rest of the match or the rest of the night — it made me very happy to get a win here on our home court in our last match."
The last two sets were a bit anticlimactic, as the Wildcats kept the Bulldogs away by the 25-17 and 25-17 scores in the final two sets to sweep the match.
In addition to being the last match here at Rice Auditorium, it was the last match for Jacobsen, the former Wisner-Pilger High School standout and the niece of Kneifl.
"She wasn't recruited because she was my niece," Kneifl said. "She was recruited and played because she was a volleyball player and a good person."
And she didn't come to Wayne State because she was a relative.
"I have just loved it here," Jacobsen said. "These girls are family, and I do not regret one day I have been here."
Jacobsen finished the afternoon with a set assist and a dozen digs as she closed out her stay on the Rice Auditorium Court before heading on to life after college.
"I have been accepted to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Medical program," Jacobsen said. "I'll miss volleyball, but it's time to move forward with my life."
Jacobsen plans to become a physician as she graduates and heads on to medical school.
"We have a lot of great kids here playing volleyball," Kneifl said. "Lauren is one of them, and we have been so blessed to have her on this team."
Wayne State defeats Minnesota-Duluth 26-24, 25-17, 25-17.
MINNESOTA-DULUTH (18-11, 10-10): Emma Kujawa 1d; Kaylyn Madison 1s, 2d; Kate Berg 5k, 1s, 9d; Maddi Kealy 11s, 2d; Sydney Lanoue 2s, 12d; Cianna Selbitschka 14k, 8d; Madison Gordon 1k, 25s, 3a, 9d; Grace Post 4k, 1d, 2b; Samantha Paulsen 3k; Grace Daak 9k, 2b; Summer Ballard 5k.
WAYNE STATE COLLEGE (21-7, 14-6): Lauren Jacobsen 1s, 12d; Jordan McCormick 2s, 1a, 7d; Jessie Brandl 1k, 4d; Jazlin DeHaan 7k, 2a, 3d, 2b; Kelsie Cada 9k, 15d, 3b; Taya Beller 12k, 4b; Rachel Walker 4k, 38s, 1a, 6d, 1b; Elly Larson 7k, 1s, 1b; Maggie Brahmer 7k, 1s, 1d, 3b.