Three NCAA Div. III national titles
PELLA — The Central College volleyball team overcame a seven-match losing streak and captured its first conference win Tuesday night against Buena Vista University.
Buena Vista (14-9 overall, 1-3 conference) took the first set of the match, but Central (7-17 overall, 1-4 conference) battled back and won the game in four sets, 21-25, 25-20, 25-21, 25-21.
“A conference win is a conference win, and we will take it,” said coach Kent Clayberg. “I am pleased to see that we broke our pattern of starting off strong and finishing poorly. Tonight we got stronger as the match wore on.”
After a slow start in the first set, the Dutch responded with a 6-0 lead in the second, including three blocks from middle hitter Kari Sandage (junior, Atlantic). Central continued the scoring assault, holding Buena Vista to a minus .034 hitting percentage. The Beavers pushed back with a four-point run, but the Dutch finished the set with two Hannah Welter (middle hitter, junior, Lincoln, Neb., Lincoln SW HS) terminations.
“Kari blocked an excellent match,” Clayberg said. “She had a lot of touches on top of her blocks and she was a strong presence in the front.”
In the second set, Central traded the first points with Buena Vista before going on a five-point push and leading the Beavers 11-6. Despite the lead, Buena Vista made a comeback and tied the score at 13, matching the Dutch point-for-point. Central slowly regained momentum and won the set with a line drive by outside hitter Sara Snead (junior, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS).
“I liked our team’s attentiveness,” Clayberg said. “I felt like we were aware of where their hitters were, and we were putting ourselves in a good position to make a play on the ball.”
Again in the fourth set, the game remained tight. Central started with just a two-point advantage, but stayed balanced for the entirety of the final set, never losing the lead. Outside hitter Nicole Ewoldt (freshman, Hull, Boyden Hull HS) crushed the last three balls of the match for a Dutch victory.
“Nicole was clutch,” Clayberg said. “She came through in some big spots. It was great seeing her confidence grow.”
Snead and Ewoldt led the Dutch in kills with ten each. Snead also had seven digs and Ewoldt had six digs. Right-side hitter Emily Stoakes (sophomore, Gladbrook, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) had seven kills and hit .357 percent while Welter recorded six kills. Sandage had four kills and four blocks, including two solo blocks.
Setter Claire Stewart (junior, Colorado Springs, Colo., Classical Academy HS) tallied 36 assists and nine digs. Setter Madii Maddox (freshman, Tulsa, Okla., Bishop Kelley HS) dominated the serving line with six aces.
“Claire responded to some early adversity well and then set a very strong match,” Clayberg said.
Libero Dzenita Bahtic (junior, Urbandale) had 23 digs and defensive specialist Tori Zempel (sophomore, La Porte City, Union Community HS) had 14 digs.
“Both Dzenita and Tori got stronger throughout the match,” Clayberg said. “Their first contact was a little shaky in the first set, but it tightened up and became solid.”
Central has the remainder of the week to prepare for a two-game weekend in Decatur, Ill. The Dutch play Millikin (Ill.) at 11 a.m. and Benedictine (Ill.) at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“We will take this game as a springboard into the weekend and upcoming conference match next week,” said Clayberg. “We still have our goals out in front of us. Opportunity is still here, we just need to embrace it and get stronger.”