The University of Dubuque is heading back to the NCAA Division III volleyball tournament.

Darby Hawtrey finished with a match-high 20 kills, Kate Messino had her second straight 50-assist match as the Spartans defeated top-seeded Wartburg, 26-28, 26-24, 25-17 and 25-20, in the American Rivers Conference tournament championship on Saturday in Waverly, Iowa.

Shauna McAleer and Kara Wright earned a block to put UD to match point and the Knights were called on a double-hit violation to hand the victory to the Spartans.

It marks the second straight tournament title for UD (20-9), which entered the tournament as the third overall seed. The Spartans defeated Buena Vista in five sets in the first round and grinded to another five-set victory over rival Loras, the No. 2 seed in the conference. That set up Saturday’s championship game rematch. Dubuque defeated Wartburg last year to earn its first conference title since 1990.

With the win, the Spartans clinch an automatic berth to the national tournament.

Wright finished with 13 kills and Grace Strawser had 41 digs to round out UD. Dyersville Beckman grad Kylee Bildstein finished with 12 kills and five total blocks to lead the Knights.

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