Nicole Hess

For three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the College of Saint Benedict volleyball team lost in the first round.

In 2018, head coach Nicole Hess and her team got that monkey off their backs – and Hess looks to keep the winning coming at the national level in 2019.

In 2018 – Hess’ ninth season with the program – Saint Benedict went 2-1 at the NCAA Tournament and made it to the Sweet 16. That marked CSB’s first win at nationals since 2013 and its best national finish since 2012.

The team was rewarded with not one but two All-Americans – a first for the program since 2014. Sophomore Hunter Weiss earned All-American First Team honors, and Madison Weiss earned All-American Third Team accolades. Hunter is the fifth CSB volleyball player to earn a first-team nod, and the first since 1993. Hunter finished the year in the top 30 in Division III in total kills and second in the nation in total blocks. Madison led DIII with 194 total blocks – which also set the school record for blocks in a season.

Hunter and Madison both earned AVCA All-Central Region honors, and they, along with sophomore setter Katie Koch, landed on the All-MIAC First Team. Koch recorded a career-high 61 assists against Minnesota-Morris in the NCAA Tournament.

CSB finished the 2018 season 26-8 overall and 10-1 and second in the MIAC. The team’s only conference loss came to Gustavus, and CSB fell to the Gusties again in the MIAC Championship match. One of the team’s MIAC wins came against St. Thomas – CSB’s first win at home against the Tommies since 2004 – and Saint Benedict beat UST in a five-set thriller in the MIAC semifinals.

In nine seasons, Hess – who was inducted into the St. Olaf Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015 – has coached 10 All-Americans, 15 All-Central Region players, 24 All-MIAC athletes and 26 athletes who earned Academic All-MIAC honors. She is 188-85 overall at CSB and 74-25 in MIAC play. In her 16 seasons overall as a head coach, Hess is 252-217 overall and 89-87 in conference play.

Hess led CSB to a national tournament berth each year from 2011-15, including a trip to the Sweet 16 in 2012, and made it back to the NCAA Tournament in 2017. She has won 18 or more games in eight of her nine seasons, including three seasons with 21 wins or more.