Three NCAA Div. III national titles
PELLA—Central College ruled the net in a decisive fifth set to overtake Simpson College for a 21-25, 25-21, 25-14, 19-25, 15-8 Iowa Conference volleyball triumph Wednesday night.
It’s the first conference win of the season for the Dutch, who improved to 4-11 overall and 1-4 in the league. Simpson slipped to 5-14 with a 1-3 conference mark.
After a slow start in the fourth set, Central sprinted to a 10-2 lead in the fifth and held the Storm to a negative .06 hitting percentage.
“Game five was just bold,” coach Kent Clayberg said. “We came out aggressive and we had a couple key sticks on their attackers, forcing them into a tip and roll situation.”
Central notched 14 team blocks for the match and scored 27 points on blocks.
“Our block was outstanding tonight,” Clayberg said. “The block gave our offense the advantage. It was huge for us.”
Middle hitter Hannah Welter (sophomore, Lincoln, Neb., Southwest HS) was a spark up front with a career-high nine blocks and eight kills.
“Hannah was just a monster at the net and her blocking was spectacular,” Clayberg said.
Middle hitter Ashley Pedersen (senior, Humboldt) had four blocks and led the Dutch with nine kills, hitting .348. She also served four aces. Outside hitter Tess Reinig (senior, Manchester, West Delaware HS) had eight kills and right-side hitter Liz Ihnen (junior, Sheldon) had four blocks. Libero Tori Zempel (freshman, La Porte City, Union Community HS) tallied 18 digs.
“Tori was very, very strong on defense,” Clayberg said. “She had a tough couple of matches and it was nice to see her come back and be confident and aggressive.”
Claire Stewart (sophomore, Colorado Springs, Colo., Classical Academy) and Jill Schildroth (sophomore, Reinbeck, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) split the setting chores and had 20 assists each.
“Claire and Jill both set a nice match,” Clayberg said. “This is Jill’s first action since she tore a couple ligaments in her ankle that first weekend. She was still a little tender on it, but she brought a sense of peace and kept us under control.”
The Dutch displayed their fight in the fourth set, rallying for six straight points after an early 14-3 deficit.
“That was the uh-oh moment,” Clayberg said. “All of a sudden we were back on our heels and passive. But unlike the first half of the season when we didn’t respond, we battled back.”
Clayberg is seeing more glimpses of the team the Dutch could be.
“We’ve been a team that’s been on the cusp, right on the edge in several matches and up to this point we hadn’t found our moment,” he said. “Our backs were against the wall tonight and we came through. It’s what we needed.”
Central travels to the Washington-St. Louis (Mo.) Bears Classic this weekend, meeting Westminster (Mo.) (6-9) Friday at 3 p.m. and No. 1-ranked Washington (17-1) at 7:30 p.m. The Dutch face Monmouth (Ill.) (11-6) and Knox (Ill.) (2-17) Saturday.