Three NCAA Div. III national titles
WINONA, MINN.—The Central College volleyball team dropped two matches, one to tournament host Saint Mary’s and one to No. 19 Augsburg, at the SMU Cardinal Invitational on Friday night.
The Dutch fell in the opener to Saint Mary’s (Minn.) 20-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-18, before falling to No. 19 Augsburg (Minn.) 25-9, 25-10, 25-14.
Central started strong with a 25-20 win in the opening set. Outside hitter Jessica Laflin (junior, Phoenix, Ariz., Horizon Honors HS) led the balanced attack with four kills. Saint Mary’s (14-5) responded with 25-16 and 25-22 wins in the second and third sets, respectively. The Dutch won the first three points to open the fourth set, but the Cardinals won nine of the next 10 points to take control. Central cut the lead to 14-13, but Saint Mary’s won eight points in a row to pull away for the four-set win.
“We started out fast and we looked good,” coach Kent Clayberg said. “We moved well and we were decisive. We did a lot of things really well in that first set. Saint Mary’s made some adjustments and we did not adjust at the same rate. From that point on, the match changed drastically. We are so used to playing from behind that we do not know how to play with a lead. That is something we need to figure out, but overall the match was a positive step forward.”
Laflin led the attack with 15 kills, while right side hitter Emily Stoakes (sophomore, Gladbrook, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) added 10 kills on .391 hitting percentage. Setter Claire Stewart (junior, Colorado Springs, Colo., Classical Academy) recorded 23 assists. Defensive specialist Dzenita Bahtic (junior, Urbandale) had 27 digs, while middle hitter Shantell Gish (junior, Cedar Rapids, Prairie HS) assisted on five blocks.
In the nightcap, No. 19 Augsburg (Minn.) defeated Central in three sets for the second time this season. The Dutch struggled offensively, hitting -.020 as a team. Augsburg hit .409 and controlled the match from the opening serve.
“Augsburg dominated us,” said Clayberg. “They jumped on us from the start and we were unable to recover. They are a ranked team with talent and experience and it showed.”
Laflin had seven kills in the match, while freshman setter Madii Maddox (Tulsa, Okla., Bishop Kelley HS) registered 12 assists. Bahtic led the team defensively with 19 digs.
“Dzenita (Bahtic) was spectacular,” Clayberg said. “She played two great matches. She stuck her nose in there in some tough situations and did some great things. Jessica (Laflin) played strong all the way around, as well.
“We had some good moments tonight, but we need to start stringing those good moments together.”
The SMU Cardinal Invitational concludes tomorrow, as Central (6-14) takes on Augustana (Ill.) at 9 a.m. and No. 10 St. Benedict (Minn.) at 11 a.m. The Dutch rallied to defeat Augustana (10-6) in five sets earlier this season in Pella. Central and St. Benedict (15-2) last met at the 2010 Northwestern-St. Paul Invitational, a 3-0 Central win.