The SAC volleyball tournament got a new look after Elmhurst closed in the spring. Because the conference only has nine teams now, the two-pool format of five teams was switched to three pools of three teams.
After Thursday's round-robin pool play, the teams were moved into three new pools – the championship pool, fourth-place pool and seventh-place pool.
Top-seeded Concordia, No. 2 Bishop Dwenger and No. 4 Bishop Luers battled it out in the championship pool, with the Saints winning their fifth straight tournament title by beating the Cadets and Knights.
"It made it a lot easier to go with three pools of three teams," Dwenger coach John Minnick said. "Obviously your top seed will have the easiest path, but just as the seeding goes, Luers knocked off (No. 3) Northrop, and there is a wildcard about how the other two pools will go. I thought (No. 5) Snider was the team to beat this year, and that's when we started to play well and came out on top in that."
There was a tiebreaking "mini-tournament" system in place had all three teams went 1-1.
Minnick said the new format makes for a more competitive Day 2 with teams playing opponents similar in ability.
"I think it is more fun for the fans, and the girls love it," he said.
The Saints won the tournament despite graduating six seniors and having only two players with varsity experience.
"This is great," junior Maddie Mayers said of winning the tournament. "We thought we had this; we knew we had this. It is a great stepping point. We feel we can go into practice Monday, and we know what we have to work on still, and who we can beat and it is great. We have this new lineup, and I am playing outside; it is great. It feels amazing."
Dwenger beat Concordia in the pseudo championship match in three games, 25-15, 12-25, 15-6.
"We knew (the Cadets) had strong middles, and we told our middles to keep an eye on them, and 'they are going to them, and they are hot tonight,'" said Mayers, an outside hitter. "Our middles played so well, and we all came together. Our libero (an injured Leah Stetzel) came out, and we were kind of scared about that but we had two defensive players who came in and everybody helped out with this win."
Dwenger beat Luers and Concordia back-to-back, while the Cadets had a match to rest after beating the Knights in the first match.
"We do a lot of stuff where we are conditioning pretty hard, so when we are tired there's no real letdown because we are used to doing that in practice," Minnick said. "That's the hard training they go through during the summer and the two-a-days we got in before the season started."