BUTTE, Mont. - The No. 14 Montana Tech volleyball team is gearing up for a second straight appearance in the NAIA National Championship Tournament.
The Orediggers are back in Sioux City, Iowa, after winning their first Frontier Conference Championship Tournament.
"I didn't know if it would be a possibility, so the fact that it's guaranteed and we're going is just beyond words," said senior middle blocker Haley Druyvestein. "I'm so thrilled."
"Being one of 32 teams that are still able to practice today and continue their postseason, it's a great feeling," said senior right side hitter Nicole Peacock.
"We're thrilled to get to go back and represent our school and the community, so we couldn't be any more excited to have this chance to go back and do this again," said head coach Brian Solomon.
Solomon, the Frontier Conference Coach of the Year, has navigated Tech back to Nationals after losing five rotation players from a year ago.
Outside hitter Masha Korol joined the Diggers as a transfer, and won the Frontier's Player of the Year award in her first season with the team.
In addition to some outside help, Solomon got a big boost from within the program.
Druyvestein missed all of last season with a knee injury, but has achieved First Team All-Conference status in her return to the court.
"(Sitting through Nationals) just kind of made me motivated to do well this year, and to really push this year to get back there," Druyvestein said. "Being able to sit there and watch everything is one thing, but to be able to play at Nationals is another. That's something I really wanted to do."
"Haley has been a tremendous leader, too, on and off the court for us, so we couldn't be any more proud of her," Solomon said.
By winning the Frontier title, the team received an automatic berth to the NAIA Tournament and avoided an extra play-in match.
Now a well-rested bunch are hoping to avoid nerves that surfaced in last year's trip to Nationals -- the program's first in 28 years.
"Every point we get to play after this point is just a bonus, so we're just excited to see how far we can go," Peacock said. "We're not too worried about the wins or losses, even though we'd like to go as far as we can."
Montana Tech opens pool play at the National Championship on Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. MDT against No. 18 Madonna University.