Women’s Volleyball returns to the NCAA Division II Tournament

Pete Turner

Coming into the 2021 season, this year’s Lady Hawks volleyball team was on the rise. In fact, this veteran squad returned all but three of their core rotational players from the 2020 season. This includes seniors Melanee Bauer, Morgan Conner, Gabbie Inman, Averi Vomastic and Justice Wingate.

The team is led by second-year head coach, Trent Jones, who amassed a record of 12-7 (10-6 GLVC) in his first year as the Rockhurst Volleyball skipper.

Veteran leadership paired with young sophomore talent proved to be a recipe for success as this year’s team amassed 20 wins in only 32 games. The Hawks finished 20-12 overall and wound up winning the West Division with a 13-5 conference record, leading them to the third seed in the Great Lakes Valley Conference tournament.

The Hawks flirted with perfection on their home court all season long, until finally falling to Missouri S&T (0-3) on November 6. The Hawks would come back a few days later on November 9 to stun Drury University, where after falling down two sets to none earlier in the game, they came back to win and clinched a 9-1 record in their home building.

Just six days after the Miners of Missouri S&T spoiled Rockhurst’s 8-game home winning streak, on November 12, these Hawks returned the favor, winning on the road in a five-set war.

As the GLVC tournament rushed upon them, the Hawks were dancing to the tune of winning 11 out of their last 14 games. In the end, Rockhurst wound up falling in five sets in the first round to the sixth seed, Screaming Eagles of Southern Indiana. Nevertheless, the senior trio of Inman (28 assists), Vomastic (13 kills) and Wingate (7 blocks) all played terrifically, leading the team in their respective categories.

In his second season as head coach, Jones notched his first NCAA Division II Tournament appearance, as the Hawks were off to Big Rapids, Michigan, to play the region’s top seed, the Ferris State University Bulldogs. Ranked number 23 in the nation, the Bulldogs were put on upset alert from the opening point as the Hawks came out throwing haymakers, taking the first set 26-24.

After the opening set loss on their home court, the Bulldogs fought back in the next two sets, and they took a 2-1 lead heading into a potential game-winning set.

Season-ending elimination stared Rockhurst dead in the eyes, but the Hawks carried on, and rolled the Bulldogs 25-18 in the fourth set, before falling 10-15 in their season’s final set.

This talented bunch from Kansas City would not go unnoticed as four players received GLVC accolades.

Wingate was indisputably one of the conference’s top blockers, ranking 2nd in blocks per set (1.23), and her coverage above the net earned her a spot on the All-Great Lakes Valley Conference First Team. The award show doesn’t end there for Wingate, as she was also selected to the DII Conference Commissioner’s Association All-Midwest Region Second Team.

Vomastic, another senior on that Hawk’s frontline, also earned conference honors. Not only did she lead the team with 380 kills, she played in every single set for Rockhurst. Joining her on the GLVC second team is the sophomore Libero, Maureen Reilly, who hustled and defended her way to a team-leading total of nearly 600 digs. Reilly perfected the Rockhurst home-court advantage of reading and reacting to balls deflecting off the low-ceiling like the game was meant to be played that way.

A final award from this season went to Sophia Moes. The Junior out of Omaha, Nebraska, earned the title as the GLVC James R. Spalding Sportsmanship Honoree due to her tremendous sportsmanship, behavior, citizenship and academic standing.