DENVER — As one of the newest NAIA men’s volleyball programs, 2014 served as a statement season for Lourdes University. The Gray Wolves notched the most wins in school history and won the Great Lakes division tournament — earning them their first bid to the six-team National Invitational.
Yet, after a first-round exit Friday afternoon, head coach Greg Reitz felt there was more to this historic Lourdes team than the Gray Wolves unveiled.
“It was a good accomplishment for Lourdes,” Reitz said following his team’s four-game loss to Clarke University. A win would have advanced the Gray Wolves to the national semifinals “What we wanted, what we focused on was to get here. But once we got here, we didn’t see our best which is the most frustrating — not seeing your best when you’re playing the best opponents.”
The fifth-seeded Gray Wolves won a gritty opening game against No. 4 Clarke — 25-22. But Lourdes dropped the next three games, 25-18, 25-12, and 25-20. Reitz said performances that gave his squad the early advantage fell off.
The Crusaders went on 17-5 run to take the third game. By then, Reitz said, the errors that plagued Lourdes early in the tournament returned. The Gray Wolves missed 13 serves after a nearly flawless opening set.
Although the loss was disappointing, Gray Wolves players say they’re hungry to get back to the big stage.
“Being here definitely motivates me,” Jo’Lon Clark said. “We have phenomenal talent coming [back], so we’ll have a well-rounded team. I think Clarke underestimated us, and we stunned them out of the gate. It was truly fun."