Three NCAA Div. III national titles
ROCK ISLAND, ILL.—The Central College volleyball team avenged two early-season losses with 3-1 wins over William Penn and Augustana (Ill.) at the Augustana Pumpkin Bash Friday night.
The Dutch (10-19 overall) defeated the Statesmen (12-24 overall) 25-17, 21-25, 25-18, 25-17 in their bash opener, avenging a five-set loss in Pella Sept. 10.
The story of the match was defense, as defensive specialist Dzenita Bahtic (junior, Urbandale) racked up 42 digs, followed by defensive specialist Tori Zempel (sophomore, La Porte City, Union Community HS) with 18 and outside hitter Nicole Ewoldt (freshman, Hull, Boyden Hull HS) with 12. Middle hitter Hannah Welter (junior, Lincoln, Neb., SW HS) made three blocks, while middle hitter Kari Sandage (junior, Atlantic) made two and middle hitter Shantell Gish (junior, Cedar Rapids, Prairie HS) blocked one.
“Our defense was really good all night,” coach Kent Clayberg said. “Our service game was great, as well. It was an all-around team effort. When we had some momentary struggles tonight, players stepped up and made plays.”
On offense Welter and right side hitter Emily Stoakes (sophomore, Gladbrook, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) led the team with 10 kills apiece, while outside hitter Sara Snead (junior, Altoona, Southeast Polk HS) killed nine and Gish finished with five kills and no errors on nine attacks. Setters Madison Maddox (freshman, Tulsa, Okla., Bishop Kelley HS) and Claire Stewart (junior, Colorado Springs, Colo., Classical Academy) assisted on 18 and 15, respectively. Bahtic added four aces, while Ewoldt added three.
In the nightcap, Central defeated the host Vikings (15-11 overall) 31-29, 25-18, 18-25, 25-20, avenging a four-set, neutral-site loss Oct. 5 and taking the season series 2-1. The Dutch also defeated Augustana in five sets Sept. 20 in Pella.
Welter led the Dutch attack with 15 kills—including six in the fourth set alone—and only two errors on 33 attacks. Gish also reached double digits with 11 kills and only two errors on 26 attacks. Snead and Ewoldt added eight kills apiece. Stewart recorded 25 assists, while Maddox had 16. Stewart and Ewoldt also registered three aces each.
“Shantell had the best night of her career,” said Clayberg. “She was aggressive and hit very intentional shots. All of our hitters played fantastic. We are getting smarter and smarter with our shot selection. Hannah (Welter) has bounced around a little bit, but she has taken each opportunity to get better and she took over the Augustana match at time. She was a force. That was the kind of play we needed at crunch time.”
Defensively Bahtic recorded 29 digs, while Ewoldt finished with 25. Gish had three blocks, while Snead, Welter and Sandage each blocked two.
“We’ve been play physical and tactical games,” Clayberg said. “We’ve been getting better and better and have been on the edge of being dangerous. This was a night that our team was determined to win. There were times when it wasn’t always pretty, but tonight we were able to step out of it and compete.”
Central is tied atop the nine-team standings with Carthage (Wis.) at 2-0.
The bash continues tomorrow as Central takes on North Park (Ill.) (10-17 overall) and Carthage (17-11 overall) at noon and 4 p.m., respectively.
“We have two tough matches tomorrow, but we will bring our best,” said Clayberg. “I like the way the team is playing and we will take our best shot.”