Three NCAA Div. III national titles
PELLA — Coming back from a two-game deficit, the Central College volleyball team battled its way to victory in five sets against Augustana College (Ill.) Friday night.
The Dutch took the Vikings to two extra-point sets, winning 31-33, 12-25, 35-33, 25-19, 15-11. Central came out swinging in the first set, matching Augustana point for point before dropping the second set, hitting just .000 percent.
“Game two was concerning,” said head coach Kent Clayberg. “When your hitting efficiency drop .245 percent between games, you are in trouble. But at the beginning of game three, we talked about what those first moments of the set would be like. Once you gain success and confidence, it takes off from there.”
In the fifth set, the Dutch took a commanding 4-0 lead and a series of Dutch kills increased the score to 10-4. But Augustana served its way to a comeback, while the Central defense committed a few errors, taking the score to just a two-point lead, 12-10. Central found its fight and ended the match on a three-point run.
“This was a catalyst match,” Clayberg said. “We had opportunities to fold, but the team chose to come through. It was a gutty performance. Coming back after being down two games takes something special. I could not be more proud of their performance.”
Junior setter Claire Stewart (junior, Colorado Springs, Colo., Classical Academy) tallied a double-double with 52 assists and 15 digs. Outside hitters Sara Snead (junior, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) and Jessica Laflin (junior, Phoenix, Ariz., Horizon Honors) shared top hitting honors with 14 kills. Snead also had 14 digs.
“A lot of this match goes to Claire,” said Clayberg. “Our struggles were her struggles. She settled in during game three and put us in a situation to come back.”
Middle hitter Hannah Welter (junior, Lincoln, Neb., Lincoln SW HS) had 12 kills. Right-side hitter Emily Stoakes (sophomore, Gladbrook, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) totaled nine kills and middle hitter Shantell Gish (junior, Cedar Rapids, Prairie HS) had seven kills.
Libero Tori Zempel (sophomore, La Porte City, Union Community HS) and outside hitter Nicole Ewoldt (freshman, Hull, Boyden Hull HS) each had 23 digs. Defensive specialist Emily Lewis (sophomore, Fort Madison, Holy Trinity Catholic HS) marked seven digs.
“The defense, in general, stepped up as the game progressed. Tori essentially shut down the left half of the court,” Clayberg said. “Nicole was really unbelievable in middle back and Emily [Lewis] played her first varsity match tonight and brought a calm, steady presence. It was a clutch performance.”
The Dutch (4-8 overall, 0-1 conference) have the weekend to recover before hosting conference-rival Coe College (14-2 overall, 1-0 conference) on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the P.H. Kuyper Gymnasium.