For the 12th consecutive time in program history, Wittenberg unsurprisingly claimed the NCAC Women’s Volleyball Tournament Championship on Saturday night.
After a 3-0 breeze past Hiram, the Tigers received the automatic bid into the NCAA Regional tournament for the 23rd consecutive year. The red and white claimed the victory by going three long sets against the Terriers, tallying 25-21, 25-20 and 25-20.
The Tigers and Terriers spent a majority of the time neck-and-neck in a game that was frequented by lead changes. Wittenberg proved to be the better team on the floor, able to pull ahead in the final serves of each set.
Six Tigers pounded five or more kills against Hiram through three sets. Senior Taylor Brown, named tournament MVP, topped the charts with 10 kills to her name for a .588 attack percentage.
Starting setter Karen Wildemann, senior, led the team with her .700 attack percentage on seven attacks and no errors. Wildemann also tacked on 31 assists through the night, which breaks the 3,000 career assists threshold.
In addition to Brown, Wildemann and Kennedey Schmidt, senior, found themselves on the NCAC All-Tournament team.
Wittenberg claimed the number-one seed into the tournament with another tally in the undefeated conference season margin. The 2018 NCAC campaign marked the eighth-consecutive conference season without a loss tally.
The Tigers advanced to the NCAC championship match after a two-round bye on Friday and a 3-1 win over Kenyon on Saturday morning. Hiram, meanwhile, took the long road in with a Friday night win and an 3-2 upset over DePauw to face off against Wittenberg Saturday night.
A year ago, Wittenberg tackled the NCAC in the tournament, knocking off Denison, 3-0, in the semifinals and DePauw, 3-0, in the championship match.
The Tigers dropped the first set to Kenyon on Saturday morning, their first dropped to a conference foe since Denison in early October. The last time Wittenberg dropped a set in the NCAC tournament was in 2016.
At the helm of Wittenberg women’s volleyball team, continuing the storied tradition, has been interim head coach Evelyn Carus, who was recognized as the NCAC Coach of the Year. The Otterbein graduate has compiled a record of 23-2 to date. Five other Tigers appeared with All- NCAC honors, topped off by Taylor Yontz, junior, who was credited as Libero of the Year.
Wittenberg found a slow start to Saturday after losing the first set 25- 22 to the Ladies of Kenyon, however had no trouble thereafter. The Tigers swept Kenyon in the following three sets with ease: 25-13, 25-10 and 25- 11.
Despite several lead changes in the first set, Wittenberg spent most of the time trailing. The rest of the match was littered with Kenyon errors to give the advantage to Wittenberg.
Brown; Katie Hiestand, freshman, and Aubrey Cox, junior, each posted double-digit kill tallies and combined for 34 kills of the Tigers’ 53 on Saturday morning. Haley Horner, sophomore, tacked on another nine.
The NCAC tournament featured two upsets in the tournament as seven-seed Wooster upended six-seed Denison in the first round Friday afternoon 3-1, later followed by a five-set thriller resulting in three-seed Hiram upsetting two-seed DePauw, 3-2.
The Tigers are heading to Grand Rapids, Mich,; bound to take on the Lady Reds of Carthage on the campus of Calvin College on Friday, Nov. 9. Pending a Tiger win, the volleyball squad will be set to take on the winner of the Hope-DePauw match-up.
This November will be recorded as the team’s 23rd consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament, including 3 trips to the national title game, winning one. The Tigers have served up a 15-5 record on Calvin’s court in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Calvin’s historic program last hosted the regional tournament in 2016 and host again after a year break to host the national championship a year ago.
At the NCAA tournament reveal in Founders Pub on Monday afternoon, several players and administrators were in shock when Wittenberg did not receive a bid to host the regional. Springfield last hosted the tournament in 2014.
Wittenberg finished the year ranked third in the nation and second in the region to earn their rightful spot in the NCAA tournament.