Three NCAA Div. III national titles
PELLA—Defense ignited an offensive spark for the Central College volleyball team in a 19-25, 25-21, 25-17, 26-24 Iowa Conference victory over Luther College Wednesday.
Luther (5-5, 0-2 conference) held the Dutch to a -.11 hitting percentage in the opening set, but Central found its offensive footing and hit over .250 the rest of the match. Three players recorded double-digit kills.
“Our defense really picked it up and that made a huge difference getting our offense running,” coach Kent Clayberg said. “We’ve got a lot of players that are very talented, very powerful hitters. The more we can spread their (an opponent’s) block by spreading our attack, the tougher we are to defend.”
Libero Chelsea Grieger (senior, Pella) tallied a match-best 27 digs. Outside hitter Amy Golly (senior, Ankeny) posted her second career double-double with 17 digs and a team-best 13 kills. Right-side hitter Caitlin Kouba (senior, Dubuque, Wahlert HS) compiled 11 kills and freshman Sara Snead (outside hitter, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) added 10. Setter Maggie Snyder (senior, Alexandria, Minn., Jefferson HS) recorded 39 assists and 12 digs for her 31st career double-double.
“Maggie did a nice job of just bringing a sense of control,” Clayberg said.
Clayberg also noted defensive specialists Liz Sanders (senior, Clive, Valley HS) and Emily Huegel (junior, Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley HS). The pair combined for nine digs.
“They did a good job keeping us in system,” Clayberg said. “They were a big key in getting our rhythm back in (sets) two, three and four.”
The home opener usually creates a few nerves, Clayberg said.
“There’s always the reality of the first time in your home gym,” Clayberg said. “It’s a process each year, no matter how much you talk about it and prepare for it. We just needed to breathe a little bit.”
But Clayberg is excited to see his team battle.
“You’re not always going to get a great start,” he said. “A team that can struggle and come through is a team that can be dangerous. We struggled well tonight. Even in games we controlled we gave up some Luther runs. But we didn’t melt, we responded. And we made some nice clutch plays.”
Central (8-2, 2-0 conference) has the weekend off before returning to league action Tuesday against the Univ. of Dubuque at 7:30 p.m. in Dubuque.
“Dubuque is a lot like Luther,” Clayberg said. “They’ve got a heavy hitting outside hitter and an increasingly athletic squad. We’ll take these three full days of practice to get better and take our shot next week.”
Dubuque is 8-3 overall with a 0-1 league mark, falling to Loras College in a five-game thriller. Central swept the Spartans 3-0 last season.