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Tribune photos by Rand Middleton These three Ridgewater sophomores get their first chance to play in the national tournament Friday after just missing in 2012: from left, setter Tiffani Karbo (Balaton/Tracy-Milroy-Balaton), libero/defensive specialist Taylor Sharpe (Danube/Renville County West) and hitter Morgan Meyer (Watkins/Eden Valley-Watkins).

College volleyball: Warriors open nationals Friday vs. Montgomery

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sports Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR — Back in the national volleyball tournament after a one-year absence, the Ridgewater Warriors will open against Montgomery College of Rockville, Md., on Friday in Rochester.

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The Warriors (21-9) received the No. 3 seed, which follows the NJCAA Division III rankings. Montgomery (17-13) is No. 6.

The Willmar contingent is in the same bracket as Central Lakes College (25-2) of Brainerd. If each wins, they would duel for a third time this season in the semifinals.

The top seed goes to Madison (Wis.) College (31-3).

The two-day tournament is at the University Center Rochester-Sports Center, the same location where the Warriors won the Region 13A championship in dramatic fashion last weekend. Both wins were in five sets each finishing with a 16-14 tiebreaker. In the semifinal, Ridgewater avenged a loss to M State (Fergus Falls), which beat them in Willmar for the 2012 region title, and then the Rochester Yellowjackets, who had nudged Ridgewater a week before, on a 15-13 tiebreaker, for the right to host the region event.

“I don’t know if I have ever experienced a weekend of volleyball like that,” said Ridgewater coach Joe Sussenguth. “Each match we won the first two games and then they came back to tie it up, and we won each tiebreaker 16-14.”

Sussenguth had guided the Warriors’ program to six straight Region 13A titles before the home-court loss to the Spartans. Three times the team came back with national championships, most recently 2011. In his eighth years starting in 2006, the Warriors have won 238 matches, losing just 52, with the majority of those losses came against D-II and D-I programs Sussenguth puts on the schedule to provide top-flight competition to prepare the team for postseason.

Also in the national field are No. 4 Eastfield College (6-19) of Mesquite, Texas, (5) SUNY Adirondack (27-4) of Queensbury, N.Y., (7) Northampton CC (33-0) of Bethlehem, Pa., and (8) Fashion Institute of Technology (36-4) of New York City.

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