DIII Women's Volleyball

A source for NCAA Division III women's volleyball info and opinion, with a focus on the Midwest and Central regions

Archive for November 2011

That’s a wrap for 2011

Thank you for finding this slice of the Internet. I hope it was informative and/or entertaining.

So far Nebraska Wesleyan, Lake Forest, Concordia Chicago and UW-La Crosse are the Central or Midwest region teams looking for a new head coach. NWU’s eight-year head coach Gina Chambers, LFC’s four-year head coach and 2011 MWC Coach of the Year Jennifer Saylor, and CUC’s nine-year head coach Kathy Gebhardt all resigned for family considerations. UWL’s Sheila Perkins retired from the sidelines after 18 seasons.

There could be some things that come up in the interim, but my regular posts on the 2011 D-III women’s volleyball season have come to an end.

If you have not read the “About Me” page, I have been trying for the past year or so to get my foot in the door of a sport information department. I’ve had minimal success with the traditional method of filling out applications at about 35 colleges and universities at varying NCAA and NAIA levels. If you know of any SID jobs around the country, please let me know at ricky.nelson08@gmail.com.

Thanks for stopping by this season. Please let me know if I overlook any news during the offseason.

-Ricky Nelson

Written by Ricky Nelson

November 28, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Final NCAA stats: Maher, DeLozier x2, WashU x2, Westminster national leaders

The Central and Midwest regions had six national statistical leaders, according to the final 2011 NCAA stats release.

The following are the Central and Midwest players and teams that finished in the top 10 nationally.


1. Ashley Maher, St. Thomas 11.61
2. Krista Stoltz, Northwestern 11.33
3. Marilee Fisher, Washington-St. Louis 11.23
6. Emily Ryan, Coe 11.09
1. Washington-St. Louis 13.24
2. St. Thomas 12.80
5. Saint Benedict 12.33
7. Northwestern 12.24

6. Morgan Bartkowiak, UW-Stevens Point 1.38
6. UW-Stevens Point 2.50
7. Chicago 2.48

2. Megan Boschert, Westminster 6.99
3. Catherine Guido, St. Norbert 6.87
8. Kayla Birdsell, Illinois College 6.46
1. Westminster 23.47
4. St. Norbert 20.76
8. Central 20.29

Hitting Percentage
5. Audrey Krajec, Millikin .421
7. Kaia Schwartz, Washington-St. Louis .411
2. Washington-St. Louis .312

1. Torey DeLozier, Maranatha 6.37
8. Tess Rountree, Principia 4.36
1. Washington-St. Louis 14.49
3. St. Thomas 13.86
8. Northwestern 13.31
9. Concordia-Moorhead 13.28
10. Saint Benedict 13.26

1. Torey DeLozier, Maranatha 7.14
8. Tess Rountree, Principia 5.22

Winning Percentage
3. Washington-St. Louis .944
10. Coe .886

-Ricky Nelson

Written by Ricky Nelson

November 22, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Final AVCA poll: Finalists the obvious choices at 1, 2

Wittenberg was No. 1 in the AVCA poll when it mattered most. The Tigers were never the top team in the AVCA poll, but a national championship title run made Wittenberg the unanimous choice as the the No. 1 team in the country. Fellow finalist Christopher Newport was second in the poll.

No. 3 Eastern, Calvin and Carthage rounded out the final top five, followed by No. 6 Washington-St. Louis, St. Thomas, Emory, Cal Lutheran and Juniata. That’s not far off from how I thought the final top 10 of 2011 should look.

Central and Midwest teams in the final 2011 AVCA poll:
5. Carthage 34-7
6. Washington-St. Louis 34-2
7. St. Thomas 32-5
11. Concordia-Moorhead 27-4
17. Chicago 30-6
19. Elmhurst 31-6
21. UW-Whitewater 26-8
24. UW-Stevens Point 26-8
Receiving votes: (None).

I think Cornell (28-6) and St. Scholastica (27-7) should have received votes. And some of the records on the final poll were incorrect, according to team sites.

-Ricky Nelson

Written by Ricky Nelson

November 22, 2011 at 8:10 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Wittenberg’s Labrador, Calvin’s Bindon named Coaches of the Year

In a slight change in protocol, Wittenberg’s Paco Labrador has been voted the AVCA National Coach of the Year. Calvin’s Laura Bindon was named the AVCA National Assistant Coach of the Year.

Last weekend Labrador’s Tigers won their first national title in his ninth season at the helm. It was Wittenberg’s first championship trophy since the 1977 football team’s title and the first Walnut and Bronze for any women’s sport at Wittenberg. However, Labrador was not one of the eight regional Coaches of the Year who, in past years, formed the candidates for the national award. Labrador deserves the national award, but the language from the 2011 regional awards said, “Each of the (eight regional) honorees will represent his/her region on the AVCA National Coach of the Year ballot.”

I didn’t think Labrador would win due to the language, but I’m pleasantly surprised the AVCA changed the rules a bit. Then again of the eight nationals participants, only Eastern’s Mark Birtwistle was selected as Regional Coach of the Year. Calvin head coach Amber Warners was the Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year.

Bindon is a nine-year assistant at Calvin, which went into regional play undefeated in pursuit of back-to-back national titles. Calvin lost to Wittenberg in the regional final and finished with a 32-1 record.

-Ricky Nelson

Written by Ricky Nelson

November 22, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Revisiting my July predictions; I barely passed the test

Here’s what I had to say in late July. Any similarities to actual events is purely coincidental. But I got at least a portion of 31 predictions correct in the 42 Pool A conferences. Not horrible, but I’m not proud of it. A 74 percent success rate is in the solid C range.

Also see the Links to all Conference Tourneys page for verification of tournament winners.

And here was my preseason top 10. I get attack errors on Springfield, Pacific Lutheran, Bowdoin, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Platteville, UW Oshkosh, Trinity, Thomas More and Amherst.
1. Emory
2. Washington
3. Calvin
4. Christopher Newport
5. Eastern
6. UW-Platteville
7. Carthage
8. Juniata
9. Wittenberg
10. Southwestern
The next 20: Heidelberg, Chicago, Concordia-Moorhead, UW-Whitewater, Wartburg, Cortland, Whitworth, Millikin, Hope, UMass Boston, Occidental, St. Scholastica, Elmhurst, Colorado, Amherst, Coast Guard, Thomas More, Trinity (TX), UW Oshkosh, Cal Lutheran.

Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference
2010 regular season champ: Pitt-Bradford
2010 tournament champ: Pitt-Bradford
2011 predicted champion: Penn State Altoona
2011 regular season champ: Penn State Altoona
2011 tournament champ: Penn State Altoona

American Southwest Conference
2010 regular season champ: Texas Lutheran, Hardin-Simmons (West); Texas-Dallas (East)
2010 tournament champ: Hardin-Simmons
2011 predicted champion: Hardin-Simmons (West), Texas-Dallas (East)
2011 regular season champ: McMurry (West), Texas-Dallas (East)
2011 tournament champ: Hardin-Simmons

Capital Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Frostburg
2010 tournament champ: Frostburg
2011 predicted champion: Mary Washington (tied for 3rd place)
2011 regular season champ: Salisbury
2011 tournament champ: Salisbury

Centennial Conference
2010 regular season champ: Haverford
2010 tournament champ: Franklin & Marshall
2011 predicted champion: Johns Hopkins
2011 regular season champ: Johns Hopkins
2011 tournament champ: Johns Hopkins

City University of New York Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Hunter
2010 tournament champ: Hunter
2011 predicted champion: Hunter
2011 regular season champ: Hunter
2011 tournament champ: Baruch

College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin
2010 regular season champ: Millikin
2010 tournament champ: Carthage
2011 predicted champion: Carthage
2011 regular season champ: Carthage
2011 tournament champ: Carthage

Colonial States Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Cabrini
2010 tournament champ: Cabrini
2011 predicted champion: Neumann (2nd place)
2011 regular season champ: Cabrini
2011 tournament champ: Cabrini

Commonwealth Coast Conference
2010 regular season champ: Roger Williams
2010 tournament champ: Roger Williams
2011 predicted champion: Roger Williams
2011 regular season champ: Roger Williams
2011 tournament champ: Roger Williams

Commonwealth Conference
2010 regular season champ: Elizabethtown
2010 tournament champ: Lebanon Valley
2011 predicted champion: Elizabethtown (5th place)
2011 regular season champ: Messiah
2011 tournament champ: Lebanon Valley

Empire 8
2010 regular season champ: Ithaca
2010 tournament champ: Ithaca
2011 predicted champion: Ithaca (5th place)
2011 regular season champ: Elmira
2011 tournament champ: Nazareth

Freedom Conference
2010 regular season champ: Eastern
2010 tournament champ: Eastern
2011 predicted champion: Eastern
2011 regular season champ: Eastern
2011 tournament champ: Eastern

Great Northeast Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Johnson & Wales
2010 tournament champ: Johnson & Wales
2011 predicted champion: Rivier
2011 regular season champ: Emerson
2011 tournament champ: Rivier

Great South Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Huntingdon
2010 tournament champ: Piedmont
2011 predicted champion: Huntingdon (6th place)
2011 regular season champ: Maryville
2011 tournament champ: Maryville

Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Transylvania
2010 tournament champ: Mount St. Joseph
2011 predicted champion: Transylvania
2011 regular season champ: Rose-Hulman, Bluffton, Hanover, Transylvania, Mount St. Joseph
2011 tournament champ: Rose-Hulman

Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Loras
2010 tournament champ: Wartburg
2011 predicted champion: Wartburg (2nd place)
2011 regular season champ: Coe
2011 tournament champ: Cornell

Landmark Conference
2010 regular season champ: Juniata
2010 tournament champ: Juniata
2011 predicted champion: Juniata
2011 regular season champ: Juniata
2011 tournament champ: Juniata

Little East Conference
2010 regular season champ: UMass Boston
2010 tournament champ: UMass Boston
2011 predicted champion: UMass Boston
2011 regular season champ: Plymouth State, UMass Boston
2011 tournament champ: UMass Boston

Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Westfield State
2010 tournament champ: Westfield State
2011 predicted champion: Westfield State
2011 regular season champ: Westfield State
2011 tournament champ: Westfield State

Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association
2010 regular season champ: Hope
2010 tournament champ: Hope
2011 predicted champion: Calvin
2011 regular season champ: Calvin
2011 tournament champ: Calvin

Midwest Conference
2010 regular season champ: Monmouth
2010 tournament champ: Beloit
2011 predicted champion: St. Norbert
2011 regular season champ: St. Norbert
2011 tournament champ: St. Norbert

Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: St. Olaf
2010 tournament champ: St. Olaf
2011 predicted champion: Concordia-Moorhead
2011 regular season champ: Concordia-Moorhead, St. Thomas
2011 tournament champ: Concordia-Moorhead

New England Collegiate Conference
2010 regular season champ: Daniel Webster
2010 tournament champ: Lesley
2011 predicted champion: Daniel Webster (tied for 3rd place)
2011 regular season champ: Southern Vermont
2011 tournament champ: Southern Vermont

New England Small College Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Amherst
2010 tournament champ: Middlebury
2011 predicted champion: Amherst (tied for 4th place)
2011 regular season champ: Bowdoin
2011 tournament champ: Bowdoin

New England Women’s and Men’s Athletics Conference
2010 regular season champ: Springfield
2010 tournament champ: Coast Guard
2011 predicted champion: Coast Guard
2011 regular season champ: Springfield, Coast Guard
2011 tournament champ: Springfield

New Jersey Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Richard Stockton
2010 tournament champ: Richard Stockton
2011 predicted champion: Richard Stockton
2011 regular season champ: Richard Stockton
2011 tournament champ: Richard Stockton

North Atlantic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Maine Maritime
2010 tournament champ: Maine Maritime
2011 predicted champion: Maine Maritime (2nd place)
2011 regular season champ: Colby-Sawyer
2011 tournament champ: Colby-Sawyer

North Coast Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Wittenberg
2010 tournament champ: Wittenberg
2011 predicted champion: Wittenberg
2011 regular season champ: Wittenberg
2011 tournament champ: Wittenberg

North Eastern Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Keuka (North), Gallaudet (South)
2010 tournament champ: Gallaudet
2011 predicted champion: SUNYIT (North) (3rd place), Gallaudet (South)
2011 regular season champ: Penn State Berks
2011 tournament champ: Gallaudet

Northern Athletics Conference
2010 regular season champ: Concordia (Wis.)
2010 tournament champ: Dominican
2011 predicted champion: Edgewood
2011 regular season champ: Dominican
2011 tournament champ: Edgewood

Northwest Conference (no tourney)
2010 regular season champ: Whitworth
2011 predicted champion: Whitworth
2011 regular season champ: Whitworth

Ohio Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Heidelberg
2010 tournament champ: Heidelberg
2011 predicted champion: Heidelberg
2011 regular season champ: Heidelberg
2011 tournament champ: Mount Union

Old Dominion Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Washington & Lee
2010 tournament champ: Randolph-Macon
2011 predicted champion: Washington & Lee
2011 regular season champ: Washington & Lee
2011 tournament champ: Randolph-Macon

Presidents’ Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Thomas More
2010 tournament champ: Thomas More
2011 predicted champion: Thomas More (tied for 3rd place)
2011 regular season champ: Geneva
2011 tournament champ: Geneva

Skyline Conference
2010 regular season champ: Mount Saint Mary
2010 tournament champ: NYU-Poly
2011 predicted champion: Mount Saint Mary
2011 regular season champ: Mount Saint Mary
2011 tournament champ: NYU-Poly

Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Cal Lutheran
2010 tournament champ: Cal Lutheran
2011 predicted champion: Occidental
2011 regular season champ: Cal Lutheran
2011 tournament champ: Occidental

Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Colorado
2010 tournament champ: Colorado
2011 predicted champion: Southwestern
2011 regular season champ: Southwestern
2011 tournament champ: Colorado

St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Greenville
2010 tournament champ: Greenville
2011 predicted champion: Greenville
2011 regular season champ: Webster, Greenville
2011 tournament champ: Webster

State University of New York Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Cortland (East), Fredonia (West)
2010 tournament champ: Cortland
2011 predicted champion: Cortland (East), Fredonia (West)
2011 regular season champ: Cortland (East), Fredonia (West)
2011 tournament champ: Cortland

University Athletic Association
2010 regular season champ: Emory
2010 tournament champ: Emory
2011 predicted champion: Emory
2011 regular season champ: Emory
2011 tournament champ: Washington-St. Louis

Upper Midwest Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: St. Scholastica
2010 tournament champ: Northwestern
2011 predicted champion: St. Scholastica
2011 regular season champ: St. Scholastica, Northwestern
2011 tournament champ: St. Scholastica

USA South Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: Christopher Newport
2010 tournament champ: Christopher Newport
2011 predicted champion: Christopher Newport
2011 regular season champ: Christopher Newport
2011 tournament champ: Christopher Newport

Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
2010 regular season champ: UW-Eau Claire
2010 tournament champ: UW-Platteville
2011 predicted champion: UW-Platteville (tied for 4th place)
2011 regular season champ: UW-Stevens Point, UW-Whitewater, UW-Eau Claire
2011 tournament champ: UW-Whitewater

-Ricky Nelson

Written by Ricky Nelson

November 21, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Ricky Nelson’s 2011 final top 10

The final AVCA poll comes out Tuesday.
1. Wittenberg 37-3
2. Christopher Newport 38-5
3. Calvin 33-1
4. Eastern 36-3
5. Carthage 34-7
6. Washington 34-2
7. Emory 36-5
8. St. Thomas 32-5
9. Cal Lutheran 29-7
10. Concordia-Moorhead 27-4

-Ricky Nelson

Written by Ricky Nelson

November 21, 2011 at 8:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tigers stun Captains in Set 3, sweep to first title

Box Score
No. 5 Wittenberg showed its resolve in fending off four set points in Set 3 and won a war of attrition to hoist its first national championship trophy with a sweep over No. 6 Christopher Newport.

Neither team had ever been in a title match, but no one could tell by the level of play. The teams settled in early and the slightest hiccups were seized upon by the first-time champions.

Wittenberg became the 10th school to win the Walnut and Bronze trophy and the third first-time champion in the past four years (Calvin 2010, Emory 2008). And Wittenberg won it with flair – the Tigers didn’t drop a set in their three matches this weekend. In its season-ending 12-match winning streak, Wittenberg (37-3) won 10 in straight sets.

Set 1: All things considered, the two teams may still be playing this set if not for the Wittenberg service pressure late. A mini run on Third Team All-America libero Christina Gilene’s serves led to a 23-18 Tigers cushion, and Wittenberg managed a sideout and a kill by Third Team All-America outside Kimmie Dyer to put the set away, 25-21.

Take those Christopher Newport (38-5) late, iffy receives away, and there was not much separating the two teams. The defenses played up to their reputations, and the offensive tempo was very quick and crisp when in system. It didn’t take long for the teams to settle in for their first championship match.

Set 2: Wittenberg forced a timeout four points into the set on Gilene’s serves. The score was 5-0 before the Captains sided out. That’s no fluke. All teams serve to zones or players. Wittenberg does that with a mixture of mustard and finesse like few teams do. It’s a weapon most teams don’t feature.

Christopher Newport never regained the lead in the set although Wittenberg head coach Paco Labrador was out of timeouts with a 19-16 lead and the Captains got within one at 19-18. Head coach Lindsay Birch used the last Captain timeout at 12-7 after another funky serve-receive run, so the players were on their own for the last third of the set. Labrador used a little gamesmanship timeout after a double was called with a 24-21 lead. He talked with the R2 for about 20 seconds, and the Tigers responded with a kill and the set, 25-21. Even when they’re out of timeouts, good coaches find ways to give their teams mental breaks.

The Tigers kept up the offensive pace in the set, running quicks to the middle and spreading it to the antennas. The Wittenberg setters, junior Hallie Donathan and freshman Meghan Vodopich, created a great tempo.

A little momentum switch in the middle of the set was stymied by a chicken-wing, excuse-me dig by Wittenberg senior outside Hannah Riley that resulted in a Tiger kill.

A combination of Christopher Newport passing and maybe Wittenberg blocking kept the Captains junior Third Team All-America middle Bailey Jensen out of the flow. If Second Team All-America setter Jessie Heavenrich couldn’t find her, no one could. But that’s a big part of the Captain offense out of the equation. Jensen had fewer than 10 swings through the first two sets.

Set 3: Jensen got involved a bit more, and the Captains scored three straight after a 16-16 tie to create some separation. Kills by senior middle Chelsea McClure, Heavenrich and tonight’s top option, junior outside Cory Harris, forced the last Wittenberg timeout with that three-point lead. Christopher Newport eventually stretched it out to set point at 24-20.

Wittenberg didn’t mail it in. A double by Heavenrich, an attack error by Captain junior all-region opposite Christie Fellows and a kill by Tiger senior opposite Catherine Farny got it to 24-23. A net violation on a double block sent it to a deuce game.

The Captains fended off one match point on a kill by Jensen after an amazing dig by junior outside Kara Elder on an attack by Wittenberg Second Team All-America middle Katie Sumner. Yet another Jensen kill foiled match point number two.

But a Captain service error and a booming kill by Dyer, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, set up match point number three at 27-26.

Riley, of self-preservation, chicken-wing dig fame already, came up with another incredible effort as the lone player patrolling the Tiger back line. Riley covered at least 8 feet to her right in order to get to the ball as she took one step and laid out with a one-armed, sprawling attempt. Not only did Riley pop up the ball, but she sent it over the net. After a digs on the overpass, Vodopich shot her set to senior opposite Christine Simpson for her match-high 13th kill, which went to the back-right corner of the Christopher Newport court. Set point. Match point. Dejection over there. Exuberance over here. Good stuff.

Wittenberg edged Christopher Newport to win the hitting battle .250 to .230 while the Tigers held a 51-42 advantage in kills in the well-played match.

Simpson went 13-0-23 to earn her way onto the All-Tournament team. MVP Dyer had 12 kills and 11 digs. All-Tournament honoree Gilene had a match-high 21 digs and two aces. Sumner added eight kills and three blocks. Riley ended with six kills and 18 digs. Donathan and Vodopich had 22 and 20 assists, respectively. Donathon added three dump kills.

Heavenrich led the Christopher Newport offense with 34 assists to go along with 14 digs and three kills. Fellows had a team-best 10 kills, followed by Harris’s eight kills and 10 digs. Junior All-America libero Abby Hogge led Christopher Newport with 19 digs, many of which were not routine. Hogge was later named to the All-Tournament team. McClure and freshman opposite Jessie Kolden tallied seven kills apiece. Jensen, an All-Tournament selection, was limited to six kills on 19 attempts to go along with her usual six blocks. Jensen had 29 swings against Carthage and 32 in the Cortland match at this year’s Elite 8.

Carthage senior middle Cindy Cavanagh and Eastern senior outside Courtney Reinhold rounded out the All-Tournament team.

-Ricky Nelson

Written by Ricky Nelson

November 20, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tigers or Captains?

Written by Ricky Nelson

November 20, 2011 at 4:33 am

Posted in Uncategorized

11/19: Captains, Tigers to play for their first Walnut and Bronze

Here are my takes on today’s matches. What are yours?
Any predictions for the final? You know mine. Neither finalist has been in a championship match. Whoever wins, it should be quite a celebration.

The 2011 Nationals Guide is still there for your viewing assistance.

No. 6 Christopher Newport 3, No. 9 Carthage 0. The Captains (38-4) advance to the national championship match to play Wittenberg (36-3) tomorrow at 5 p.m. central. Carthage ended its first Elite 8 appearance with a 34-7 record.

Both schools were playing in their first Final 4, and the Christopher Newport block proved to be the difference in yet another match. The Captain block was stout in yesterday’s quarterfinal and was even more of a presence against Carthage in a match in which both teams battled to see who could stay in system the most often. Carthage has a tendency to ride a roller coaster in terms of consistency, and the Lady Reds didn’t get to the fun part of the ride often enough. The Christopher Newport block is very good against an in-system team, but it turned into world-class with 12 blocks as the Lady Reds were forced to roll and tip out of desperation.

In short Carthage simply didn’t play well and the Lady Reds once again had trouble limiting runs. This time there was no shift of gears. They were in the first two sets but lost momentum for long stretches, and the Captains made them pay like a good teams do in a machine-like, balanced display of A-B-C volleyball. As a result Carthage hit -.023, managed just 27 kills and ceded 34 points on errors, including 30 on the attack.

Christopher Newport junior outside Cory Harris went 10-0-31 to lead the attack. Junior All-America middle Bailey Jensen had nine kills and eight blocks. Junior All-South Region opposite Christie Fellows added six kills and five blocks. Junior All-America libero Abby Hogge led all players with 21 digs.

All-America outside Michelle Madeja led Carthage with 10 kills to go along with 13 digs. Junior libero Izzy Shaindlin led the Lady Reds with 18 digs. Just two of the top six Carthage options – senior middles Jordan Burkholder and Cindy Cavanagh – hit positive.

The loss is the final NCAA match for eight Carthage seniors who accounted for nearly every kill, block, assist, dig and ace by the team this season. But it won’t take long for a great program like Carthage to roll out another championship caliber recruiting class and team.

Because I need to get some of these puns out of my head, the Captains remain moored in St. Louis and will move on to more uncharted waters tomorrow. I have many more, but I’m sure you’re not interested.

No. 5 Wittenberg 3, No. 4 Eastern 0. Wittenberg (36-3) advances to its first championship match where it will face No. 6 Christopher Newport (38-4) for the Walnut and Bronze tomorrow at 5 p.m. central. Eastern ended its first nationals appearance with a 36-3 record.

I tuned into a volleyball match and an equally enthralling game of chess broke out in the first set. Both teams were well prepared, and nothing came easy. The passing was strong, the setting was elite, the blocking was a presence, the sideout terminations were even when in system, the serving created pressure, and the back rows on both sides were on fire. Besides the rare, random unforced errors, many of the remaining points were decided by who played the headiest volleyball. The rewarded team was the one that read the defense and got out their protractors to find the corners and lines, or found the weakness in the blocks. It was a good representation of what D-III fans hope for in a Final 4 match.

Unfortunately the Eastern passing didn’t allow for the chess match to carry over into Sets 2 and 3. Wittenberg kept a foot on the gas while Eastern’s attack, now a bit predictable due to the passes and strong Wittenberg serves, was swallowed by the Tiger block. The block didn’t result in direct points, but it funneled the ball to advantageous positions. It was like one of those nature shows where the predators know when and where the prey traditionally take a drink. They’re not Tigers in name only. Wittenberg was ruthlessly efficient, hitting .327 in their quest for the goal. And according to the patented Wittenberg M.O., all of the talented Tigers played a part in the bounty of the ambush.

Junior All-America libero Christina Gilene, my player of the match, had a match-best 18 digs. Wittenberg senior All-America middle Katie Sumner went 8-0-11 with three blocks. Senior All-America outside Kimmie Dyer had 11 kills and 10 digs. Senior outside Hannah Riley added seven kills and eight digs. The setters, freshman Meghan Vodopich and junior Hallie Donathan, had 19 and 16 assists, respectively. Senior middle Miranda Sagle and senior opposite Christine Simpson added six kills apiece. It was the epitome of a “team effort.”

Senior All-America outside Courtney Reinhold led Eastern with a match-high 12 kills to go along with 12 digs. Senior All-America setter Maria Horning had 25 assists and nine digs. Eagle freshman middle Katrina Pisch went 6-1-13. Junior libero Kelly Groff had a team-high 14 digs.

Reinhold and Horning cap their standout careers in the national semifinals (first time in Eastern history) as the only classmates in any NCAA division to be four-time First Team All-Americans.

-Ricky Nelson

Written by Ricky Nelson

November 19, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

11/18: Captains, Lady Reds, Eagles, Tigers moving on

I thought we had some good quarterfinal battles this year. Sometimes that’s not the case. Let me know what you thought of tonight’s matches. Here’s what caught my eye. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. You know that I picked CNU and Witt to win before today. I’ll stick with that prediction. What do you think will happen tomorrow?

I’ll add the 2011 Nationals Guide link again to supplement your Saturday viewing.

No. 6 Christopher Newport 3, No. 18 Cortland 1. The Captains are in the semifinal round for the first time. Christopher Newport (37-4) moves on to play No. 9 Carthage (34-6) tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. central. Cortland had its 22-match winning streak snapped and ended the year at 42-2.

Net play was the difference to me. Cortland set a solid block that allowed the back row to clean up in a Set 1 victory. However, Christopher Newport didn’t help its cause with Set-1 hitting errors. The Cortland ball control was shaky after that first set, and the Christopher Newport net defense took advantage with several blocks and countless touches. There just weren’t many hitting options for Cortland. When there were options, they were usually sniffed out by a wall of Christopher Newport hands.

Christopher Newport stepped up the service pressure and varied its shots, but the Captains’ bread is still buttered in the middle. The All-American combo of setter Jessie Heavenrich and middle Bailey Jensen were in sync for most of the match, and the Cortland block that proved formidable in the first set was oftentimes too late. Heavenrich had 48 assists, eight digs, three kills and three blocks. Jensen had 16 kills and five blocks. Captains outside Cory Harris added 12 kills and 11 digs.

Cortland sophomore middle Ava Hintz provided a spark off the bench in Set 4, but momentum was decidedly in Christopher Newport’s favor. Hintz went 4-0-10 with an ace in Set 4. Senior middle and co-captain Kaitlyn Cooper led Cortland with eight kills and six blocks. The Cortland All-America hitting duo of Ashley Coyle and Sheena Asibey combined to go 11-11-52 and the Red Dragons hit .089 overall. Coyle added a match-high 21 digs.

No. 9 Carthage 3, No. 20 Springfield 2. Set 5 ended 15-6. Carthage survives into the semifinal round in its first Elite 8 appearance. Carthage (34-6) will face No. 6 Christopher Newport (37-4) at 3:30 p.m. central tomorrow. Springfield ends its season at 34-3.

For the uninitiated, welcome to Carthage volleyball in 2011. Not many teams in the country prey on momentum and experience so many confidence shifts like Carthage does. All teams are streaky to a certain extent, but few teams have the highs and lows of the Lady Reds. When they’re on, few teams can beat them. When they’re off, it seemingly takes 10 points to get it back. Those peaks and valleys were on display today, when there were just enough flashes of brilliance to offset their elongated passing, setting and hitting funks.

Springfield senior First-Team All-American Lauren Torvi had a role in Carthage’s streaky play. The 6-foot-4-inch middle appeared to get in the Carthage hitters’ heads with her blocking and hitting in the early going. In an effort to avoid Torvi after the early resistance, the Lady Reds tried to craft perfect shots. And Carthage was far from perfect, resulting in 22 attack errors in the first two sets.

Hitting at Torvi didn’t work. Even when Carthage found a seam, Springfield All-American libero Itza Nieves was there to scoop up the remainder. Shaping perfect line shots didn’t work. Carthage senior All-America setter Drewann Pancratz going over on two worked. The sporadic on-two two-handed shots to the belly of the Springfield defense tempered the Springfield block in the middle sets, provided a spark and got the Lady Reds back on track.

After the teams found their tempos after two raggedy sets, the match was a coin flip. Carthage fed its star seniors: Third Team All-American outsides Michelle Madeja and Lauren Dembkowski, and middle Cindy Cavanagh. Springfield fed its leaders Torvi and outside Tessa Smolinski, an Honorable Mention All-America and this year’s winner of the Elite 89 award, which recognizes the player at the championships with the highest grade point average. In the end, the Pride’s lackluster passing in Set 5 proved to be the deciding factor. Springfield battled with some tremendous digs in the latter stages, but the Carthage attack was relentless as the Lady Reds had 11 kills and hit .435 in Set 5. Springfield answered with two kills and hit .000 in the last set.

Madeja led Carthage with 20 kills and 17 digs. Cavanagh went 19-3-31. Dembkowski had 14 kills and 23 digs. Lady Red senior middle Jordan Burkholder added a 9-0-16 line for good measure. Pancratz had 48 assists, 16 digs and five kills.

Torvi proved her All-America status by going 22-2-46 with five blocks. Fellow All-America Nieves had a solid night passing and finished with 33 digs, many of the spectacular variety despite playing with her left upper leg heavily bandaged. Smolinski had 18 kills and 11 digs.

No. 4 Eastern 3, No. 11 St. Thomas 0. In its first Elite 8 appearance, Eastern (36-2) advanced to face Wittenberg (35-3) tomorrow at 6 p.m. central. St. Thomas ended its season at 32-5.

It’s not as though St. Thomas throws the best block you’ll ever see, nor does Eastern for that matter. But I thought Eastern senior First Team All-America Maria Horning showed why she is arguably the best setter in the country at the D-III level. Horning gave her teammates numerous one-up and none-up nets, leading the Eagles to a stellar 51-kill, .311-hitting-percentage offensive barrage. She was setting dimes on balls that few other D-III setters even attempt.

Benefiting from Horning’s play were sophomore Honorable Mention All-America Kearby Benak and senior First Teamer Courtney Reinhold, who both finished with a match-high 15 kills. Sophomore middle Katrina Pisch went 8-0-16. But my game ball goes to Horning for her masterful all-around performance that included 45 assists.

After regrouping from a bout of nervousness at the opening bell, the heavyweight battle befitting a national quarterfinal was on. The Eagles and Tommies were bombing hitting-line kills at each other until the judges’ cards said Eastern won a split decision, 26-24.

The Tommies weren’t up to Eastern’s level in the final two sets. St. Thomas played well enough to beat most teams in the nation, but not Eastern. Not today. That side was dialed in. The Eastern offense wasn’t the only thing clicking; the Eagles also had their digging shoes on. Eastern popped up some of the Tommies’ best efforts, sometimes when St. Thomas was crushing at a free net. Eagle libero Kelly Groff had a match-high 15 digs. Reinhold contributed 14 digs. Benak finished off her double-double with 11 digs.

AVCA Freshman of the Year Kelly Foley led St. Thomas with 10 kills, most of which came in the opening set. Tommie sophomore middle Paige Brimeyer went 7-0-17. Senior All-America setter Ashley Maher had 30 assists. Junior All-America libero had Kaitlain Wachter 14 digs. Freshman outside Jill Greenfield had eight kills, 11 digs and five aces.

The Tommies could be back next year considering it loses just three seniors. Those three are an All-America setter and two key cogs in the offense, but tonight St. Thomas lost seven senior after last season, and this year the Toms started two freshmen and two sophomores with a junior All-American libero.

No. 5 Wittenberg 3, No. 17 Cal Lutheran 0. Wittenberg (35-3) advances to the semifinals to face No. 4 Eastern (36-2) tomorrow at 6 p.m. central. Cal Lutheran ended its season at 29-7.

It’s matches like tonight’s that made me think Wittenberg was the team to beat in St. Louis. Cal Lutheran didn’t play its best match on either side of the service phase of the game, but the Regals ran into a buzzsaw tonight. UPDATE: In an apt coincidence, CLU head coach Kellee Roesel said in her post-match presser that her team “ran into a buzzsaw tonight.”

The Tigers run two setters with distinct styles, assisting an array of talented hitters with wide skill sets who can crush from anywhere on the court, so opponents can’t pick their poison. That’s the headache you incur if you’re fortunate enough to get a point. Most of the time you’ll have to earn those tallies because the Tigers don’t beat themselves very often. Wittenberg had two attack errors all match, both by the same player. Two errors?

Wittenberg also uses the service line as a weapon, perhaps more so than the other quarterfinalists. Get a good pass off of the Tiger service pressure and you have to deal with the block, which is rarely without four hands over the net. Get one over or through the block and you have to deal with one of the best liberos in the country, Third Team All-America Christina Gilene.

Add it up and sprinkle in the fact that Wittenberg also has one of the best coaches in Paco Labrador, and it’s a tall order to knock off this Tigers squad.

Cal Lutheran gave it a go, and the Regals didn’t necessarily have to play perfect volleyball to win. But they had to play better than they did, especially with ball control. The task of downing the favored Tigers is improbable when they take care of their side of the net.

Wittenberg hit a robust .451 with six players getting between three and 10 kills. Feeding the talented hitting corps were setters Hallie Donathan and Meghan Vodopich, who finished with 16 assists apiece. Vodopich added four aces. All of the Tiger hitters excelled, but the anointed stars among stars were stars. Senior Second Team All-American middle Katie Sumner went 8-0-18. Senior Third Team All-American outside Kimmie Dyer went 10-0-18 with 10 digs. Gilene had a match-high 19 digs.

Freshman Honorable Mention All-American Kylie McLogan led Cal Lutheran with eight kills. Senior opposite Casy Mcwhirk added seven kills. Regals junior All-American middle Shannon Pearson was held to five kills, and junior First Team All-American Jackie Russell had just 25 assists and eight digs.

-Ricky Nelson

Written by Ricky Nelson

November 18, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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