With three teams ranked in this week's NJCAA Division III poll, the Region IV women's volleyball tournament looks to be one of the toughest in the nation.
"It's a very difficult tournament -- we have to be clicking on all six cylinders," said Harper coach Bob Vilsoet.
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Rock Valley Community College has the top seed, followed by Harper and Madison Area Technical College.
The national finals will be held in Minnesota, where presumably the nation's top-ranked team, Ridgewater (Minn.), will be awaiting the Region IV champ.
"We have a very tough road to get to nationals," Vilsoet said. "Our regional could (produce the national champion)."
Rock Valley has a first-round bye.
The Hawks open competition on the tartan court of the Sports and Wellness Center in Palatine at 6 p.m. Wednesday against the lowest seed in the field, Milwaukee Area Technical College (0-17). The winner advances to Saturday's semifinal round.
Rock Valley will be the host site for both semifinals and the championship game Saturday and figures to pose a stiff challenge.
"Can you beat the better team?" Vilsoet said. "We talked about those things (in practice)."
Assuming the Hawks do not suffer a hiccup against Milwaukee, their semifinal matchup would be against Madison.
"They are not going to be looking past us," said Vilsoet, who said the key matchup would be generating a strong attack against Madison's strong defense.
According to Vilsoet, Harper has its own defensive ace in the hole in Sara House. Another focal point for Harper is setter Kelly Somers. Both Somers and House have committed to Concordia University.
Vilsoet doesn't expect Madison to be easily flustered. Six of the eight players in its rotation were captains of their high schools teams.