Three NCAA Div. III national titles
MOUNT VERNON--Central College's bid for a third straight road upset in the Iowa Conference volleyball tournament finally ended Saturday in the title match as host Cornell College secured a berth in the NCAA Division III tournament 25-18, 25-14, 25-21.
Cornell set the tone early with a powerful block and limited Central to a mere .045 team hitting percentage. The Rams posted nine team blocks.
“They stuck us early with their big block and got into the minds of our hitters,” coach Kent Clayberg said. “They put us on our heels and we never really got our offense on track.”
The Dutch recorded five team blocks but struggled to slow Cornell’s offense.
“When we got good touches with our block they were right there to pop it up,” Clayberg said. “It was Cornell’s night. They were getting to everything and they were in-system most of the night.”
Right-side hitter Caitlin Kouba (senior, Dubuque, Wahlert HS) led the Dutch offense with 10 kills, hitting .308. Setter Maggie Snyder (senior, Alexandria, Minn., Jefferson HS) distributed 11 assists and had eight digs. Libero Chelsea Grieger (senior, Pella) had 10 digs.
Behind 2-0 in the match, Central found a spark in set three. The Dutch traded points with the Rams to 19-19 before Cornell went on a 3-0 run and took the momentum to win the match.
“It was nice to see us come out and battle in game three,” Clayberg said. “It wasn’t perfect but we were more energetic and more aggressive. When it gets to 19-19 we have a chance to finish but it just wasn’t in us tonight.”
The Dutch entered the six-team tourney as the No. 5 seed, but knocked off No. 4 seed Loras College Tuesday, then stunned top-seeded Coe College Thursday to advance to the championship match for the 16th time in the tournament's 24-year history.
Central loses six seniors to graduation. Along with Kouba, Snyder and Grieger, the Dutch graduate middle hitter Kiley Meyers (Grundy Center), outside hitter Amy Golly (Ankeny) and defensive specialist Liz Sanders (Clive, Valley HS).
“They’ve been invested, they’ve been passionate and they’ve been the definition of Central volleyball for the past four years,” Clayberg said. “We’re going to have to redefine ourselves a little bit losing them.”
But they’ve left a lasting impact on the program.
“We have some quality young kids and they’re quality young kids that have been mentored by good seniors,” Clayberg said. “Our program is in good shape.”