BILLINGS – The Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears are back in Sioux City, Iowa this week after back-to-back years of missing the NAIA National Championships field.
Rocky goes in as the No. 9 team in the country, which means they were put with three other nationally ranked teams in their pool. But the Bears are happy with the draw, especially since they beat their toughest opponent, No. 8 Northwestern College, 3-1 earlier this year.
“We’re so excited,” said sophomore setter Natalie Hilderman. “We went to the selection show and we knew we were going to make it. We didn’t know if we were going to get a play-in game because of how we performed at the conference tournament, but we were really excited that we only dropped one (spot in the rankings).”
Middle blocker Naomi Bad Bear likes her team’s chances to advance, especially against Northwestern.
“We’ve beat them before. They’ve definitely grown as a team but so have we, so that should definitely help in our favor,” Bad Bear said.
The Bears will also face No. 23 McPherson College (Kan.) and No. 25 Marian University (Ind.).
“They have great records and you know, it’s a 32-team field and everybody’s good,” said Rocky head coach Laurie Kelly.
Rocky opens Pool H play against McPherson Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. MDT. The Bears play Marian on Wednesday and Northwestern on Thursday. The top two from each of the eight pools advance to the knockout rounds.