Featured Athlete
Jamie Schnittker
Jamie Schnittker
Men's Volleyball
April 22, 2015

Hometown: Arlington Heights, Ill.
High School: Buffalo Grove
Major: Finance, Economics and Marketing

Jamie Schnittker sure knows when to pick his spots.

The St. Ambrose senior was named the Most Outstanding Player at the NAIA Men's Volleyball North Conference Tournament in some part thanks to two well-timed kills.

His first came on match point at 17-16 in the fifth set of a crucial 3-2 semifinal win over then-No. 4 Clarke.

The next day, his deciding kill came even later, on match point at 22-21 in the fifth set of SAU's 3-2 championship and NAIA Tournament bid-clinching victory over then-No. 2 Grand View.

Receiving late-game passes from senior setter Nick Lynch is a spot Schnittker has found himself in quite a bit this season.

"Nick has gone to me in end-of-game situations a lot. I have failed sometimes but they have trust in me and I want the ball. Those are situations I want to be in."

Schnittker came through for the Bees all weekend. Realistically, with just one at-large bid up for grabs, St. Ambrose needed at least two wins in the conference tournament to advance to the national tournament. But getting three wins and a conference title was the only way SAU could guarantee its spot in the national tournament field.

And Schnittker delivered.

He had nine kills and just one hitting error in the first round over Culver-Stockton. He followed that up with 14 kills against Clarke and then 15, against just two errors, in the win over Grand View.

But even he was caught off-guard by being named the tournament's most outstanding player. 

"I was honestly surprised. I didn't play the best against Clarke and we had so many guys play well, that award could have gone to anyone. I just got a little lucky."

The award was possible thanks to a willingness to make a position change for first-year head coach Catherine Wildner as Schnittker entered the year as the backup to opposite hitter Ryan Mahl, a two-time all-conference pick.

"Throughout my career I've had to switch positions just to stay on varsity. Ryan is such a great player and I was behind him and I didn't want to sit on the bench my senior year. Catherine and I talked about switching to the outside and it's all worked out. The hard work I put in is paying off."

But despite playing for a nationally-known program that has qualified for six of the last eight National Invitationals, this group of Bees has relatively little national tournament experience.

Only Lynch and senior middle hitter Jimmy Leyden were on the varsity roster of the 2012 team that finished as national runner-up with a 33-3 record. And only Lynch has won a match at the national tournament, coming that season. In 2013, the Bees were 0-2 in pool play and SAU came up short of qualifying last season.

But that doesn't bother Schnittker.

"Most of our starters have good experience. We play in a tough conference and we've really stepped it up. I think we proved that when the game is on the line, we can get the job done. We just have to keep doing what we're doing."

This year's National Invitational, played in St. Louis, opens Thursday. SAU will battle host-school and top-seed Missouri Baptist at 7 p.m. before facing Cardinal Stritch Friday at 1 p.m. in the team's second match of pool play.

A win would likely send the Bees to Friday night's semifinals with the championship game being played Saturday at 6 p.m.

But first things first.

"Going 2-0 would be great but I'll be good as long as we get one win. Then when you get to the final four teams, it's going to be a dogfight. We are confident, but not too confident. Anyone could come out on top.

"Every year, our goal is to compete for a National Title. We are always working toward that. We were so close as freshmen and didn't do as well as we hoped our sophomore year, so the guys really want this. But I'm proud of this team no matter what. We'll have no regrets."