St. Ambrose never had won a single national title in its long history as a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. In a matter of a little more than 24 hours, it may claim a pair.
The SAU women's dance team did on Friday in Daytona, Fla., what the Fighting Bees men's volleyball team hopes to accomplish Saturday night at the P.E. Center.
After finishing as runner-up in the NAIA large dance class at last year's NCA/NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championships, the women moved up a spot to claim a national crown.
The men's volleyball squad, meanwhile, topped Missouri Baptist in three sets in the NAIA National Invitational Tournament semifinals at the P.E. Center on Friday afternoon and advanced to the national championship match in their own arena for the second time in as many years. The top-seeded Bees (33-2) will face No. 4 Park University (19-7) at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The women's win was announced while the men were closing out their semifinal victory in front of a crowd of students clad in white. Fighting Bees coach Bill Gleeson ‘06 greeted the news from Florida with a wide smile and applause. And with cause. His wife Megan '09 is an assistant coach on the dance team.
"It's funny," head dance coach Danelle Stanger, '06 MBA, said from Daytona of the intertwined championship dreams. "We have been following the volleyball tournament closely here."
But the women stuck to business Friday, too, focused on bettering last year's runner-up finish.
"That was kind of the goal," Stanger said of the season's mission. "We are pretty excited, that's for sure."
Stanger's 14-woman dance squad bested instate rival Grand View by a final score of 9.165 to 9.064 in Friday afternoon's three-team finals. The St. Ambrose squad started the final round in second place but claimed the title with a strong performance that mixed hip-hop, pom and jazz dance moves.
Members of the title-winning troupe were seniors Katie Arp and Kayla Wills, juniors Laurel Whitford, Lauren Philiotis and Stefanie Rocknowski, sophomores Heather Sturtz, Kayelyn Geurink, Kirstin Marriott, Miranda McKenna and Rachel Molsberry and freshmen Amber Yaddof, Katelyn McDonald, Alison Baskerville, Alli Burke, Megan Willard, Tonya Boots and Jessica Frye.
In the championship match tonight, the men's volleyball squad will be looking to complete a mission that began with a 3-0 loss to then top-ranked California Baptist in the championship game on the SAU campus a year ago.
Led by returning American Volleyball Coaches Association All-Americans Dan Dowjotas, a senior outside hitter, and Kyle Schwetz, a junior middle hitter, the Bees held the No. 1 ranking for all but two weeks this season and carried it into this week's three-day tourney.
The Bees improved to 33-2 with Friday's win over Missouri Baptist, the team that knocked them out of the tourney in 2010, but Dowjotas stressed the season won't be a success without a season-ending win.
"That's all we're working for," he said. "33 wins doesn't mean anything without that championship."
"After the loss to CalBap last year, we really haven't been thinking about anything other than this moment," Schwetz said of tonight's appointment. "We are going to rest up and do what we have to do to make this dream come true."