Why not us! That was the Wheeling Jesuit volleyball mantra during their march through the 64 team field. Saturday night in Tampa, the Cardinals made history as they soared past the Sailfish of Palm Beach Atlantic for the University’s first-ever National Championship trophy.
WJU recorded the victory in three straight-sets winning by scores of 25-22, 26-24 and 26-24.
“We did it! This is for Wheeling, the community and all the support they have given us through thick and thin,” exclaimed an emotional Christy Benner, the Cardinals’ head coach, in the post match interview.
WJU went out to an early first-set lead and Emma Schleucher’s kill of a PBA block gave the Cards a 25-22 win. The Cardinals were down by as many as seven points and battled back in the second set to win. In the third set, WJU trailed by four, before they came back again to win the set and the National Crown.
“It was such a hard-fought battle. For us to win in three sets, I would never have expected to do that,” said Benner. “The match was really even and it came down to some points at the end that went our way.”
The Wheeling Jesuit national championship is the first-ever for the University and the Mountain East Conference. The Cardinals’ victory also set the program’s single-season wins record as it improved to 39-4 mark.
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“It means everything to me (to bring WJU its first national title). This is for every WJU volleyball alum,” noted Benner. “I am so blessed to work with my husband (assistant coach Matt Benner) and thank Wheeling Jesuit for taking a chance on us. This win is for every member of the WJU community,” she added.
Setter Andrea Thobe earned the Most Outstanding Player award. She and her sister Jessica Thobe, Haley Kindall and Kayce Kruckiand were named to the All-Tournament team.
The Thobe sisters and Sam Obringer paced the Cardinals’ defense with 67 of 112 digs. Kindall and Krucki led the WJU frontline with 10 total blocks as the team posted nine total team blocks.
Wheeling Jesuit held Palm Beach Atlantic’s tall and skilled hitters to a .095 hitting percentage and 21 attack errors for the match.
Andrea Thobe shined with 39 assists, 21 digs and four kills running the potent Cardinals’ offense.
Jessica Thobe was all over the floor again with 26 digs, while the back line defensive “sweeper” Sam Obringer dug 20 attacks.
Krucki sliced a team-high 15 kills to go with yet another double-double with 15 digs and four total blocks.
When asked about what made this WJU team special, Krucki calmed and confidently stated, “This WJU team is all about teamwork! It is the most selfless team all the way down our bench. We work for each other and not for ourselves.”
Kindall downed 12 kills with a .444 attack percentage and a match-best six total blocks.
The freshman frontline duo of Sydney Obringer and Lauran Graves made their presence felt as well. Sydney Obringer belted eight kills, while Graves added seven kills, seven digs and two total blocks.