GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Two teams familiar with the NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball National Championships met tonight at the Van Noord Arena where Cal Lutheran upended Carthage with a 3-2 (25-21, 25-27, 21-25, 25-22, 15-11) win to avenge an earlier season loss to punch a ticket to the National title match on Saturday evening.
For the second time in three years, the Regals have earned an opportunity to play on the last day of the collegiate season. All the hard work and dedication have paid off to this point as the Violet and Gold were able to erase the memory of a 3-1 opening weekend loss to the Lady Reds tonight.
After CLU controlled the pace of play in the first set, Carthage responded by stealing the second two sets despite the teams being knotted and close throughout the majority of play. The gritty Regals team showed what they have been tested with all season and played for each other and put the match away with a huge block from Michelle Lawrence who seemed to take the team on her shoulders in the fourth set and maintained the success throughout the final point. A turning point in the fourth came when Pua Mo’okini-Oliveira and Mikayla Dobson subbed in to promptly contribute. In two swings, the Hawaiian Mo’okini-Oliveira sparked the squad with two kills, adding a block assist with Sarah Pappas who tallied five total and also hit double digits for kills with 12.
Cal Lutheran (30-5) proved its poise and consistently high level of play to advance to the title match for the third time in program history. Leading the way tonight during a backs-against-the-wall win, Lawrence, Allie Eason and Amanda Roberts each recorded a double-double. Eason and Lawrence shared the team-high with 19 kills apiece after 63 and 51 attempts, respectively, with 15 and 18 digs. Roberts tallied 11 kills with 17 digs while adding two service aces. Eason also had a pair of aces with a solo block and a block assist while Lawrence recorded the biggest block of the night to end it after recording a pair of block assists against Carthage. Monica Lundgren, who finished with 10 kills, had the other solo stop of the match. Jamie Smith handed out 59 assists in the five-set thriller and Nicki Tetherow led all players with 27 digs to pace the defensive unit.
Carthage (35-8) got a match-leading 20 kills from Stephani Korbakes while Emily Heuermann added 15. Karen Chin, regarded as one of the best setters in the Nation, handed out 50 assists. Luci Kernzke led the team with 24 digs on a night when four reached double digits. At the net, Carthage teamed up for 14.0 blocks with four solo stops, two coming from Stefanie Romanowski.
In the first semifinal of the day, Wittenberg (29-2) defeated Hendrix (29-9) in four sets to advance to championship Saturday. The 2011 National champion, returns to the final for the first time since hoisting the trophy.
The 2015 NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball season will conclude tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 21, at 7:00 p.m. local time, 4:00 p.m. (PST) when the Regals and Tigers converge on the court to play for the ultimate prize.