Carthage Defeats UC-Santa Cruz, 3-1, in the NCAA Championship Semifinals

Championship Web Site
Carthage 3, Nazareth 2, quarterfinal box score
Carthage 3, UC-Santa Cruz 1, semifinal match box score

The Carthage College men's volleyball team (29-5), ranked third in the April 17 American Volleyball Coaches Association NCAA Division III poll, will play for Carthage's first-ever national championship on Sunday, April 29 after defeating the University of California-Santa Cruz, 3-1, on Saturday, April 28 in the semifinals of the inaugural NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship.  The Red Men's winning set scores over the Banana Slugs were 25-23, 25-20, 20-25 and 25-18.  Carthage will play No. 1 Springfield College (32-5) in the 4 p.m., EDT title match at Springfield's Blake Arena in Springfield, Mass.
 
Carthage survived the first night of the championship on Friday, April 27 with a 3-2 win in the quarterfinals over No. 5 Nazareth College (27-9).  The Red Men's winning set scores over the Golden Flyers were 25-21, 27-25, 26-28, 21-25 and 18-16.  The quarterfinals got underway earlier on Friday with Springfield (31-5) sweeping No. 13 Baruch College, 3-0, with winning set scores of 25-12, 25-16 and 25-17.  Baruch advanced to the quarterfinals by winning an April 21 play-in match over Elms College (20-8), 3-0, with winning set scores of 25-23, 25-18 and 25-19.  On the same side of the bracket, 12 Hunter College (26-8) defeated No. 14 Kean University (25-11), 3-1, with winning scores of 25-23, 22-25, 27-25 and 25-21.  On Carthage's side of the bracket, No. 2 the University of California-Santa Cruz (18-6) outlasted No. 10 Rivier College (26-9), 3-2, with winning scores of 23-25, 25-20, 20-25, 25-22 and 15-12.  Springfield (32-5) swept Hunter (26-9), 3-0, in Saturday's first semifinal contest with winning scores of 25-13, 26-24 and 25-7
 
The first set against UC-Santa Cruz was essentially a one-point contest all the way.  Carthage took a 24-22 lead.  UC-Santa Cruz cut it to 24-23, but the Red Men took the final point for a 25-23 win.  Trailing, 9-8, in the second set, Carthage ran off six unanswered points to take a 15-9 lead.  The Red Men extended their lead to eight points, 21-13, before the Banana Slugs mounted a furious comeback to pull to within three, 22-19.  Carthage held on to take three of the last four points for a 25-20 decision. 

UC-Santa Cruz jumped out to a 12-4 lead in the third set.  Carthage got it back to six, 13-7, but UC-Santa Cruz went up by nine, 17-8.  The Red Men came with a 8-2 rally to pull to within three, 19-16, but the Banana Slugs won the set by five, 25-20.  UC-Santa Cruz took an 11-7 lead in set four before Carthage rallied with five-straight points to take a 12-11 lead. The Red Men continued the remarkable 11-2 rally to go up by five, 18-13.  Carthage went on to win by seven, 25-18. 
 
Randy Hansen (Sr., Oak Lawn, Ill./Oak Lawn) led the Red Men with 17 kills and a .308 attack percentage., while Pat Barry (So., Skokie, Ill./Wilmette-Loyola Academy) had 12 kills.  Matt Yanz (Sr., Bolingbrook, Ill./Naperville-Central) added nine kills and hit .320 with two block solos and five block assists.  This was the Red Men's fourth encounter this year with the Banana Slugs.

In Carthage's win over Nazareth, The first set was basically a one-point contest until Carthage finally found a little daylight with a four-point lead at 21-17.  Nazareth got no closer than three points the rest of the way, as the Red Men won the first set, 25-21, with Randy Hansen collecting six kills.  Nazareth had an early, 6-3 lead in the second set , which Carthage quickly erased.  The Red Men led by two points on three occasions.  The Golden Flyers were serving set point, 24-23, but Carthage stayed alive by taking the next point and then going ahead by one, 25-24.  Nazareth tied the set at 25 all, but the Red Men took the next two points for a 27-25 decision. 
 
Carthage had a three-point lead on four occasions in the third set before opening up a four-point lead at 11-7.  The Red Men seemingly had the third set in control, as the Golden Flyers were just unable to get any closer than two points until they closed the gap to one, 20-19, and again at 21-20.  Nazareth pulled even at 21-21.  Following ties at 22-22 and 23-23, the Golden Flyers took their first lead, 24-23.  That was the first of three Nazareth attempts at set point, with the first two failing on serve errors.  With the score tied at 26-26, the Golden Flyers took a 27-26 lead, and a Hansen attack error gave Nazareth a 28-26 win. 
 
Carthage never led in set four, as the Golden Flyers took an early, 11-7 lead that the Red Men erased with four unanswered points.  Nazareth went back up by four, 20-16.  From that point, Carthage got no closer than two points and lost by four, 25-21.  The Golden Flyers jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the fifth-and-final set and still led by three, 6-3, before the Red Men knotted things up at 6-6.  Nazareth eased out to a three-point lead, 14-11, but Carthage tied the match at 14-14.  Following ties at 15-15 and 16-16, kills by Jim Schultz and Pat Barry gave the Red Men an 18-16 set win and the 3-2 match victory.

Randy Hansen (Sr., Oak Lawn, Ill./Oak Lawn) collected a match-high 25 kills and hit. 444.  Pat Barry (So., Skokie, Ill./Wilmette-Loyola Academy) had 21 kills with a .381 attack percentage and four block assists, and Matt Yanz (Sr., Bolingbrook, Ill./Naperville-Central) chipped in with 13 kills, a .440 attack percentage, two block solos and eight block assists.  Setter Connor Wexter (So., New Lenox, Ill./Lincoln-Way Central) averaged 12.80 assists per set with five block assists.  Rob Kraft led Nazareth with 20 kills, a .545 hitting mark and six block assists.

“When the bracket came out, and we saw we were playing Nazareth,” said Carthage coach L.J. Marx, “we all knew we had a challenge.  “We played them twice this season, and it's tough to beat a team three times.  They came to play, and thankfully, we pulled things together in the fifth set.  Falling behind, 14-11, in the fifth set was definitely not part of the script, but Randy Hansen came into the huddle and reminded everyone that we've been here before, just trust each other and keep playing.  I admit, it looked bleak, but our motto all year has been to trust our system, and things will work out in the end.  Nazareth dialed it up in the third set, and we got a little tentative from the service line.  Their two middle blockers torched us tonight, and we made a few adjustments in the fifth set to slow them down a bit.”
 
“Nazareth has a good core of guys,” said Carthage's Randy Hansen, “ and they just refuse to lose.  We need to play our system and our game tomorrow to beat UC-Santa Cruz.”

Springfield College was selected to host the inaugural NCAA Division III Men's Volleyball Championship in 2012 at Blake Arena in Springfield, Mass., and the Stevens Institute of Technology will host the 2013 championship at its Canavan Arena in Hoboken, N.J.  Both Springfield and Stevens hosted the Molten Championship three times since that tournament was formed in 1997 to give Division III men's volleyball sponsors a post-season experience.
 
Division III formally adopted the NCAA men's volleyball championship as the association's 89th championship at the 2011 convention.  The NCAA has sponsored a National Collegiate Men's Volleyball Championship (all divisions) since 1970, but sponsorship of men's volleyball in Division III recently eclipsed the 50 institutions required for a single division to conduct its own championship. 

Looking at the NCAA Championship Field:  Cal Wickens (187-69, 8 years) coaches the Nazareth College Golden Flyers (27-8), who won the United Volleyball Conference Tournament with a 3-2 win over the Stevens Institute of Technology.  Nazareth won last year's Molten championship with a 3-1 decision over Springfield College.  The Golden Flyers lead the series with the Red Men, 4-3, but Carthage won both meetings this season, 3-1, on Jan. 27 at the Nazareth Tournament and 3-0 on March 17 at the Carthage/MSOE Tournament…Sheila Gisbrecht coaches the Elms College Blazers (25-10), who won the New England Collegiate Conference title with a 3-1 victory over Endicott College…Allison Stack (148-60, 5 years) coaches the Baruch College Bearcats (23-14), who won the City University of New York Athletic Conference tournament with a 3-2 decision over Hunter College…Charlie Sullivan (221-55, 14 years) coaches the Springfield College Pride (30-5), who earned on the three at-large berths.  Springfield won the 1997, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2008 and 2010 Molten titles and defeated Carthage in the 2008 semifinals.  The Red Men trail the series with the Pride, 2-0…Don Perkins coaches the Kean University Cougars (25-10), who won the Skyline Conference tournament, 3-0, over Ramapo College…Ray Bello coaches the Hunter College Hawks (25-8), who received an at-large berth after losing in the City University of New York Athletic Conference tournament final to Baruch…Todd Hollenbrech coaches the University of California-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs (17-6), who knocked off Carthage, 3-0, in the Continental Volleyball Conference tournament-championship match.  Carthage leads the UC-Santa Cruz series, 7-6, and the two teams have met three times this season.   The Red Men lost a March 3 match, 3-1, in St. Louis, Mo., before winning a March 31 contest, 3-1, in Milwaukee…Craig Kolek coaches the Rivier College Raiders (26-8), who won the Great Northeast Athletic Conference tournament, 3-0, over Emmanuel College.

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