Three national championship tournament appearances in four years would please just about any volleyball program in the country, but for Viterbo University, the expectations are changing before our eyes.
Under Ryan DeLong, the V-Hawks just completed a 40-5 season and a second-straight NAIA Final Four, falling in the national semifinals to Missouri Baptist University.
A move to the North Star Athletic Association didn't slow Viterbo down, as the team won the regular season and tournament titles. Viterbo then received the No. 2 overall seed in the NAIA tournament.
Though the sting of settling for national semifinalist again still lingers, DeLong knows there will be plenty of proud moments to reflect on in due time.
"Thinking of what our program has accomplished is pretty neat," DeLong said. "We feel blessed to work with a great group of girls and a coaching staff that is truly a family, and that's the exciting thing, we get to do it again next year."
Viterbo has established itself as a perennial title contender over the past four years, going 148-34 and reaching the NAIA Elite 8 three times. It starts with the culture inside the locker room, and the chemistry outside of it, senior libero Jennifer Krentz said.
"I think that how we mesh together, both on and off the court really helped us and it really did bring us as far as we could go," she said. "Going into this year, none of us was really sure about what was going to happen or how far we would make it, so then making it to that Final Four is just something that I'm excited about and I was happy to end my career on."
The future is still bright for the 2016 V-Hawks, as only Krentz and fellow seniors Erin Mulcahy and Jess Jerde depart. Though they are all defensive players, sophomore middle hitter Natalie Geidel and DeLong believe there is a strong chance they make it back to Sioux City, Iowa and the championship again next year.
"You know the next group comes in, the upperclassmen kind of define what we're doing and what it's all about and what Viterbo volleyball is all about," DeLong said. "So now it's just getting the right people, recruiting the right people, and then molding them into the culture that we've built here."