RICHMOND, Ind. - The Red Wolves volleyball family will spend a week together in Iowa.
The Indiana University East volleyball team advanced to the NAIA Volleyball National Championship Final Site with a 25-14, 25-19, 25-18 win against Bryan College in an NAIA Volleyball National Championship Opening Round match Nov. 17 in the Richmond High School Tiernan Center.
No. 12 IU East (44-3) won an Opening Round match for the first time in four tries. Bryan finished 32-10.
IU East will be one of 24 teams at the Tyson Events Center/Gateway Arena in Sioux City, Iowa, location of the NAIA National Championship Final Site presented by CNOS. Final site matches are Nov. 27 through Dec. 1. IU East will play pool play matches Nov. 27, 28 and 29.
"The monkey is off of our backs," said IU East coach Charlie Brown. "We've said all year, this is our time. If you say it enough times you will believe it, and we believed it today.
"We talked before the match about how this was for family and how we are 16 family members strong (14 players plus two coaches). We got it done for the people we dedicated this match to."
Soft-spoken IU East assistant coach Londa Brown set the tone for the day with an emotional pre-match speech - the first speech anyone involved with IU East volleyball could remember her making.
"For the first time in four years Londa gave a speech, and it was really touching," said senior libero Kristin Waechter (Muncie, Ind./Daleville High School). "She was saying it was an honor to coach us and we are a family, and we are taking it to Iowa!"
IU East rode fast starts in each set to the 3-0 win. Bryan got within two points a few times late in the second set, but never nosed in front.
Junior middle hitter Caitlin Burroughs (Richmond, Ind./Northeastern High School) and junior outside hitter Sarah Shilling (Warsaw, Ind./Warsaw Community High School) led IU East with 11 kills apiece. Shilling also had one of IU East's Wetzel Family Auto Cruise Aces.
"We had to play with a physical demeanor and the girls did a good job of that," Charlie Brown said. "We came in and took care of business and locked down that Iowa trip."
The big crowd in the Tiernan Center came to its feet when the Red Wolves reached their Parallax Systems Match Point. And the celebration began when the Lions pushed an attack wide.
"I thought, 'We made it. We finally did it,'" Waechter said. "It's the icing on the cake. I couldn't have asked for a better season, better teammates, a better journey. The progression from my freshman year to now is just amazing.
"To finish my last year here achieving all the goals we set in the beginning is just amazing."
IU East will learn its opponents for pool play at the NAIA Volleyball National Championship Final Site on Nov. 18 at 6 p.m.
* Burroughs was honored as IU East's recipient of the NAIA Champions of Character Award during a banquet prior to the match.
Photo by Josh Smith
IU East-Bryan box score
IU East-Bryan broadcast from WCTV and RadioTroy.com: