Three NCAA Div. III national titles
DUBUQUE—Central College was ousted from the Iowa Conference volleyball tournament Tuesday night by third-seeded Loras College 25-14, 25-27, 25-20, 25-19.
The sixth-seeded Dutch close the year at 9-20. Loras improved to 16-17 and advances to meet second-seeded Coe College Thursday.
After an opening-set loss the Dutch erased a six-point deficit in the second set and tied the score at 24-24 with a kill down the line by outside hitter Tess Reinig (senior, Manchester, West Delaware HS). Another Reinig kill secured the set win at 27-25.
“In game one we struggled at a lot of levels but our outsides picked it up offensively from game two and on,” coach Kent Clayberg said. “The Loras defense was set up to take away the middle and we needed our outsides to take advantage of that.”
Down 10-4 in the third set, the Dutch again rallied and took a 20-18 lead. But Loras pulled back and kept Central off the scoreboard. In the final set, the two teams exchanged points to 16-16 before the Duhawks took control for the match win.
“We spent most of the night playing good volleyball but in the middle of good volleyball we’d have just errant stretches and give up five or six-point runs,” Clayberg said. “When you spend so much of the night playing from behind it gets to be exhausting. But we kept fighting back. This team has been searching for its competitive will much of the season and it was nice to see the players pull it together tonight.”
Outside hitter Sara Snead (sophomore, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) pounded a career-high 15 kills and eight digs. Reinig finished with 11 kills.
“Both Sara and Tess played strong and did a nice job,” Clayberg said.
Right-side hitters Sam Retz (senior, Atkins, Benton Community HS) and Jessica Laflin (sophomore, Phoenix, Ariz., Horizon Honors HS) had six kills apiece and Laflin added four blocks. Setter Claire Stewart (sophomore, Colorado Springs, Colo., Classical Academy) tallied 26 assists while setter Jill Schildroth (sophomore, Reinbeck, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) had 15. Libero Tori Zempel (freshman, La Porte City, Union Community HS) notched 33 digs and defensive specialist Dzenita Bahtic (sophomore, Urbandale) had 11.
“I really liked the way our defense played tonight,” Clayberg said. “And Tori was spectacular.”
Loras outhit Central for the night, .215 to .121, and had three players with double-digit kills. Both teams had six blocks. The Duhawks also posted 13 ace serves.
Four of Central’s setbacks this year were to nationally-ranked opponents and the Dutch lost 13 sets by just two points.
The Dutch graduate six seniors: Reinig, Retz, middle hitter Holly Osborn (Arvada, Colo., Saint Mary’s Academy), defensive specialist Emily Huegel (Bettendorf, Pleasant Valley HS), middle hitter Ashley Pedersen (Humboldt) and defensive specialist Lindsey Von Gillern (Omaha, Neb., Millard North HS).
“In what was a challenging year in a lot of ways, their leadership and enthusiasm was ever-present,” Clayberg said. “I’ll miss them.”