Judah Newby | Assistant Sports Editor
The Wheaton Thunder volleyball team clinched a spot in the conference tournament last Saturday with a 3-1 victory over Augustana College in King Arena. Wheaton took set one 25-18, dropped set two 18-25, but rallied back to win sets three and four, 25-18 and 25-20, respectively. The win came as part of senior day as well for five members of the team, as seniors Emily Buyse, Megan Thornton, Jess Foggy, Cora Nott and Meghan Grant were all recognized after the game with their parents.
The Thunder wrapped up their regular season on the road at Carthage College on Tuesday, falling in three close sets to the Lady Red (22-25, 23-25, 17-25). That brings Wheaton’s overall record to 24-11 and 4-3 in the CCIW.
Wheaton’s 24-11 record in the regular season is good enough for a winning percentage just under 70 percent and is the program’s best mark since the 2007 regular season.
The CCIW Tournament field is now set and will be hosted by top-seeded Elmhurst College (33-4; 7-0 CCIW), who won the regular season conference title for the second straight year. The Blue Jays are ranked 5th nationally in the most recent American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III poll, and will face the four-seed Thunder in a semifinal match on Friday at 7 p.m. in Elmhurst. Millikin University (26-10; 6-1 CCIW) is the conference’s two-seed and will play three-seed Carthage (24-13; 5-2 CCIW) in Friday’s opening semifinal match. The two semifinal winners on Friday will play each other in the championship match on Saturday at 4.30 p.m. in Elmhurst.
The Thunder are headed to the CCIW Tournament in the first season for head coach Brittany Smith at Wheaton. This is the fourth straight year Wheaton has played in the tournament, with a pair of championship match appearances in 2010 and 2012.
This is also the first year the CCIW is not including a “play-in” match featuring the conference’s fourth and fifth-seeded teams, with the winner advancing to the CCIW Tournament. The Thunder have participated in that play-in match seven times since 2005, with a record of 5-2 in those matches.
The Thunder played the Blue Jays earlier this year back on October 15 in King Arena. Elmhurst won that match 3-0 by scores of 25-20, 25-14, and 25-19. The two teams also met up in the CCIW Tournament Championship in 2012, a match Elmhurst also won 3-0. Wheaton has not won a set against Elmhurst since 2009.