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Wheeling Jesuit wins first national championship

2015 Division II Women’s Volleyball

Wheeling Jesuit volleyball players Maddy Smyth (left) and Jessica Thobe celebrate with an embrace and tears of joy following their national championship win. MATT MARRIOTT / NCAA PHOTOS

The Results

CHAMPIONSHIP

Wheeling Jesuit 3, Palm Beach Atlantic 0

SEMIFINALS

Wheeling Jesuit 3, Western Washington 0

Palm Beach Atlantic 3, Wayne State (Nebraska) 0

ELITE 90 HONOREE

Leisa McClintock, Wayne State (Nebraska)

The Wheeling Jesuit University women’s volleyball program had been on the cusp of a championship for nearly half a decade. After reaching the NCAA tournament quarterfinals or semifinals for four consecutive seasons, the Cardinals finally broke through this year, capturing the school’s first NCAA championship with a 3-0 win over Palm Beach Atlantic University on Dec. 12 in Tampa, Florida.

Wheeling Jesuit, led by the championship’s most outstanding player, Andrea Thobe, dropped only one set in the tournament.

The win was coach Christy Benner’s 459th at Wheeling Jesuit since she and her husband, Matt Benner, who is the team’s assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, took over the program in 2002. Under their stead, the Cardinals have won 80 percent of their contests and at least 38 games four seasons in a row.

“It means everything to me,” Benner said after clinching the national championship. “I am so blessed to work with my husband and thank Wheeling Jesuit for taking a chance on us. This win is for every member of the WJU community.”