For the first time in its program’s short history, The Master’s University men’s volleyball team is heading to the NAIA National Championships.
The tournament will be held in Des Moine, Iowa, with matches beginning on Tuesday, April 11, with pool play.
The Mustangs earned a three-seed for the tournament and will enter Pool C, with matchups against No. 11 Indiana Tech and No. 6 Menlo College.
Master’s has taken down Menlo twice this season already but both matches have been tight, with one battle going five sets.
The Mustangs (17-4, 7-3 GSAC) finished the regular season on an eight-game win streak, capped off by a Golden State Athletic Conference title, in a 3-1 win over Vanguard. Master’s had previously only won one set over Vanguard in two conference matches, but spoiled the Lions’ unbeaten season in the win.
“We’re pretty happy with the season overall,” Mustangs head coach Jared Goldberg said in a phone interview. “We’ve had some ups and downs and we scheduled a very difficult schedule, which was all part of the plan. We knew we had a good team, so we had to challenge ourselves.”
The Mustangs won the GSAC title 29-27, 18-25, 25-19, 25-19.
Should Master’s advance out of pool play, it’s possible the team will square off with Vanguard for the fourth time this year in the NAIA semifinals.
Outside hitter Nolan Flexen leads Master’s with 378 points on the year, with 335 coming off kills. Opposite hitter Isaac Seltzer and outside hitter Braden Van Groningen have also rounded out the Mustangs’ attack with a combined 286 kills.
Setter Matthew Hamm eclipsed the 500-assist mark in the GSAC championship game and enters the NAIA tournament with 507 on the season.
“I think we’re going to have a target on our back,” Goldberg said. “The three most likely teams that can win are the top three seeds. But there’s definitely some teams that can pull off some upsets if they get hot at the right time.”
Master’s will have its chance to make some noise in its first NAIA tournament in the program’s fourth year of existence as the team has experience with several potential opponents. The Mustangs bested the No. 1 Benedictine Mesa Redhawks in five sets earlier this year. However, the Redhawks earned the top seed with only three losses on the year and have only dropped one set since March 3.
“It’s a new and young team,” Goldberg said. “It’s our program’s first time in the NAIA, but our young guys who have been playing expected it. It’s always been a goal to make the national tournament but also to win a national championship and I think we have the talent to do that.”
The Mustangs begin their NAIA journey on Tuesday, when the team takes on Indiana Tech at 10 a.m. PST.