The victory punches SSU's ticket to Sioux City, Iowa and tournament pool play for the first time in program history.
"It's hard to explain," SSU head coach Kristy Kamer said. "We set out for a dream. We had our goals. And now we're living our dream. I don't think it will really sink in until maybe tomorrow when we all wake up or next week whenever we fly out to Iowa."
The victory marked the 40th consecutive at home for the Bears (31-3) and was the team's first-ever in national tournament action.
"It was awesome," junior setter Haley Halcomb said. "We thought we were going to get stuck in Idaho or California. We were happy to be here with all our fans because they were so loud."
A year ago, SSU made its first-ever appearance in the national tournament, falling to Lewis-Clark State in Lewiston, Idaho in four sets. This year, the Bears showed early that they weren't just happy to be in another national tournament game.
Union (29-5) struck first with the match's first two points, and led by as many as three points early in the first set. When Jami Turrill and Heather Koehler made back-to-back kills to erase Union's lead.
The Bears would not trail in another set the entire evening.
"That's always the key," Kamer said. "You never want to come from behind, especially in games like these. If you get behind, you have to keep pushing harder and harder. Once you get the down, it's hard to keep going."
Not only were the Bears winning sets, they were taking them convincingly. It was an 8-0 run that put SSU up in the first set and two seven-point runs which put the second and third sets out of reach.
"That was very big for us because we tend to always make things kind of tight," Koehler said. "Then we get that pressure on us and get nervous and we don't want to mess up. But once we were ahead, we just stayed focused on staying ahead."
Koehler had a big night for the Bears, leading all players with 15 kills. The first-team All-AMC performer led SSU this season with 433 kills.
"I felt like there was a little bit of pressure just because their girls kept saying 'stay on 13'," Koehler said. "But I just stayed focused. I knew I could do it and just tried to play my best."
Megan Wills added eight kills while Turrill and Kim Rosen each drove home five.
"Everyone got to play today and everyone stepped up at one point in time," Kamer said. "It's a team thing. We have everybody on that court that can dominate at any given time. We don't have to depend on just one person."
Many of those kills were set up by Halcomb, who led SSU with 34 assists on the attack and 11 digs on the defensive side.
It was that SSU defense which limited Union's attack by notching four stuff-blocks and 47 digs.
"We were on with our defense tonight," Kamer said. "We were on our toes. I gave them a challenge to stay back on their toes and not let balls drop and they did a good job at that."
Now SSU advances to pool play of the national tournament which starts Dec. 1 in Sioux City, Iowa.
"We're really excited," Halcomb said. "After not being able to go last year, we're really excited to be going."
CHRIS DUNHAM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org