The number one ranked women’s volleyball team can’t seem to be stopped as the Wittenberg Tigers rolled to a 13-0 standing and look to improve on their past several finishes in the NCAA Division III National Tournament.
Wittenberg’s Women’s Volleyball Team has a tradition of winning, and the 2017 season seems to be no different, except for one thing, and that’s to win a national championship.
Over the past few years, the Tigers have come close to carrying the title of National Champions, but have fallen short in the end. During the 2015 campaign, the Tigers finished second in the nation and were runners-up to Cal Lutheran. In 2016, the Tigers won their tenth straight NCAC Championship, but lost in the second round of the national tournament.
The Tigers began the season as the number 11 ranked team in the country, according to the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll. After beating teams like #2 Emory, #16 Illinois Wesleyan and #24 John Hopkins in dominate fashion, there’s no question why the AVCA coaches poll has voted Wittenberg University as the #1 team in the country for the past three weeks.
One reason why the Tigers have been so dominant in past years is because of their players. A key contributor is the lone returning senior, Maddie Fischer, who has became the sixth Tiger to earn AVCA All-American First Team Honors and was named First Team All-NCAC and Regional All-Tournament for her play during the 2016 season. Junior setter Karen Wildemann has also stuffed the stat sheets and earned NCAC Player of the Week honors after the season opener and sophomore Aubrey Cox was named NCAC Newcomer of the Year, after finishing the 2016 season with the top hitting percentage in the NCAC. Cox also received All-NCAC First-Team honors along with DIII Freshman of the Year.
Another reason why the Tigers can’t be stopped is because of their head coach Paco Labrador, who was inducted into Miami of Ohio’s Prestigious Cradle of Coaches last September. During his 14 years at the helm for the Tigers, Labrador has accumulated 37 NCAA Division III tournament wins, including one National Championship title (2011) and one National Championship Runner-Up (2015) and over a dozen NCAC titles. Labrador is the winningest coach in all of NCAA Division III collegiate volleyball and second across all divisions (.868 winning percentage).
No matter what the reason is, after an undefeated start to the season and the way the team played this past weekend, its hard to argue that the Tigers aren’t the favorite to carry the title of NCAC and National Champions once the season comes to a conclusion at the end of November.
“The matches this weekend were a total team effort,” Coach Labrador said of Saturday night. “It was great to see players make the best of their opportunities. We still have plenty of growing to do and this coming week will give us a chance to solve some problems we had early in the match.”
Wittenberg now looks forward to six straight NCAC contests, four on the road and two at home, before an end of the season tournament in Illinois. The team will play two road games next Friday and Saturday against Hiram and Allegheny College. The next time students can support the team at home will be on Oct. 11 at 7 p.m.