Three NCAA Div. III national titles
PELLA — Playing from behind most of the match, the Central College volleyball team lost in three sets after its offense and defense were stalled by Luther College Tuesday night.
Central (8-19 overall, 1-5 conference) dropped the matches 25-23, 25-22, 25-18. The Dutch offense started slowly with Central trailing 9-3 at the beginning of the match. As the team’s defense and offense kick started, the Dutch pushed for a comeback and took the lead 16-14 before the Norse (14-18 overall, 3-3 conference) tied the game at 21. Luther scored three straight points to win the set.
“We are right on the edge of being a dangerous team,” said coach Kent Clayberg. “There are things that we do really, really well, but at times we will slip.”
Central found itself struggling in the second set as well. The Dutch started with a 3-0 lead, but the Norse gained the advantage on a three-point run. Central responded with four straight points, led by setter Madii Maddox (freshman, Tulsa, Okla., Bishop Kelley HS) in serving, which brought the team within one point. A series of Luther kills placed the Norse in a position to win the set, and the Dutch faltered.
“There were moments that were bright,” Clayberg said. “If we continue to get better at owning those moments and remain consistent emotionally, we can be very dangerous.”
On a promising note, set three started with two Maddox service aces and another 3-0 lead. The teams traded points until the Norse regained the lead, 11-10. Luther’s offense broke down the Dutch defense in an eight-point streak that left Central down 20-11. A burst of Dutch kills brought the team within five points, but they couldn’t close the final set.
Central was without its starting setter, Claire Stewart (junior, Colorado Springs, Colo., Classical Academy HS), due to illness.
“Tonight we had to deal with adversity,” said Clayberg. “Claire was unable to play, and Madii had to step in with her first varsity start and she set an outstanding match. She played really well.”
Maddox had 29 assists and eight digs. Outside hitter Nicole Ewoldt (freshman, Hull, Boyden Hull HS) led the Dutch attack with seven kills. Ewoldt also had 10 digs. Outside hitter Sara Snead (junior, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS), middle hitter Hannah Welter (junior, Lincoln, Neb., Lincoln SW HS) and right-side hitterEmily Stoakes (sophomore, Gladbrook, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) each had six kills. Welter contributed with two solo blocks. Libero Dzenita Bahtic (junior, Urbandale) and defensive specialist Tori Zempel (sophomore, La Porte City, Union Community HS) had 14 and 12 digs, respectively.
“I am proud of the intentionality of our hitters,” Clayberg said. “We have to take this match, learn from it and prepare for our final conference match next week. The best is yet to come.”
Before the conference match next week, the Dutch travel to Rock Island, Ill. for the Augustana Pumpkin Bash tournament. Central will play William Penn at 6 p.m. and host Augustana at 8 p.m. Friday night.