HUTCHINSON, Kan. — The College of Southern Idaho volleyball team continues to make last season’s finish look like a blip.
The Golden Eagles swept Eastern Arizona College in the first round, then swept Mineral Area College in Thursday’s NJCAA Division I national quarterfinals to advance to the the semifinals for the third time in four years.
“Really happy with our team,” CSI head coach Heidi Cartisser told the Times-News over the phone. “I’m most proud about how they’re sticking to game plan and implementing what we want to do against each team. They’re really pulling together, and it’s fun to watch.”
CSI (30-3) is the third seed in the 16-team national championship. No. 1 Miami Dade (32-0) also advanced to the semis, and it is one of two teams that has defeated the Golden Eagles this season (Salt Lake CC beat them twice).
No. 13 New Mexico Military (30-11) pulled off two upsets to force a date with Miami Dade, and No. 7 Tyler (21-9) surprised many, including CSI, by beating No. 2 Iowa Western (37-2) in four sets.
“If everything played out right, we’d be seeing Iowa Western, and our team thought that would be the path,” Cartisser said.
The Golden Eagles handled 14-seeded Eastern Arizona 25-17, 25-17, 25-21. Airi Miyabi led all players with 11 kills, and she led her team with 10 digs. She also had three aces, as did JoJo Kruize and Morgan Weatherwax, who dished out a game-high 22 assists. Jasmyn Keohohina-Malina, Shiloh Peleras and Jovana Vukvevic each had six kills.
No. 6 Mineral Area had a 35-0 record going into its match with CSI. The Cardinals had dropped just six sets all season, and only one of those was in the first set.
The first set of Thursday’s quarterfinals match was close, but the Golden Eagles held on 25-23. They won the final two sets 25-18 and 25-21.
“It was huge that we won the first set,” Cartisser said.
Keohohina-Malina had a game-high 11 kills against Mineral Area, while Shiloh Peleras and JoJo Kruize each slammed 10. Kruize, Weatherwax and Miyabi each had eight digs, and Sache Legros led all players with 16. Kruize had a match-hight five aces, and Weatherwax added 31 assists.
The last time CSI reached the national championship, in 2015, it won the entire thing. Last year’s hiatus meant no player on CSI’s 2017 roster had NJCAA tournament experience, which concerned Cartisser a bit going into Thursday.
Her worries were quickly quashed.
“This is what CSI volleyball is all about,” she said. “Just because this team wasn’t here last year doesn’t mean they weren’t ready this year.”
The Golden Eagles face Tyler Friday at 5:30 p.m. Mountain Time. They are the only semifinal team that hasn’t yet lost a set.