Nov. 12, 2009

Courtesy of Ohio Northern

HOLLAND, Mich. - Senior Sharon Guzik's career-best offensive match helped the No. 6 Ohio Northern volleyball team defeat Bluffton 3-1 in the First Round of the NCAA Division III Volleyball Championship Thursday afternoon at the DeVos Fieldhouse.

Ohio Northern is now 29-3 on the year, while Bluffton ends its season at 27-6.

Guzik obliterated her previous career-highs of 10 kills and a .471 hitting percentage with 16 kills and a .577 hitting percentage (16-1-26) against the Beavers.

Senior All-American Liz Schnelle led the Polar Bear offense with 23 kills, while junior Abby Schaller added 10 kills.

Schnelle now has eclipsed the 500-kill mark for the third consecutive season and now has 509 on the season.

The Northern defense had a great day with 105 team digs, as four individuals had 14 or more digs, including three with more than 20.

Sophomore Nicole Howard led the way with a career-best 24 digs, nine more than her previous high.

Sophomore Kasey Roeser had 23 digs, junior Renee Berry had 21 digs and senior Liz Decima tied a season-high with 14 digs.

Junior setter Kelly Smerekanich dished out 59 assists on the afternoon and chipped in two aces and six digs.

With the score tied 7-7 in Set 1, Bluffton went on a 5-1 run to take a 12-8 advantage and prompt a Polar Bear timeout.

After the timeout, the Polar Bears scored the first point before the Beavers rattled off three more to build the lead to 15-9.

The Polar Bears came back, though, and cut the deficit to 18-17 with an 8-3 run of their own, thanks in large part to three kills from Guzik.

Bluffton halted the momentum with a timeout and proceeded to go up 21-17 after scoring three consecutive points.

Ohio Northern would call another timeout, but it was not enough to stop the momentum, as the Beavers took Set 1 25-20.

Guzik kept the Polar Bears close in Set 1 with six kills on nine attempts with no errors for a .667 hitting percentage.

Set 2 was back-and-forth for much of the beginning, as neither team could build more than a two-point advantage until Schnelle put the Polar Bears up 17-14 with a kill on a back slide.

With the score 18-17 in favor of ONU, the Polar Bears built a five-point cushion with four straight points off a kill apiece from Schnelle and Guzik and a pair of aces by Smerekanich.

The Beavers made it interesting down the stretch, but the Polar Bears would prevail in Set 2 25-23.

Set 3 was competitive affair early until the Polar Bears took control at 12-10.

Guzik had her 11th kill of the match, setting a career-high, to make Set 3 13-10 before back-to-back kills by Schnelle made the score 15-10.

The Beavers maintained the five-point separation until 18-13 before Ohio Northern went on a 7-3 run to finish Set 3 at 25-16.

Ohio Northern then controlled Set 4 and built leads of 16-10, 20-12 and 23-15 before taking the set 25-17.

ONU will face North Central (Ill.) tomorrow at 4:30 pm at the DeVos Fieldhouse. The Cardinals earlier defeated No. 19 Heidelberg 3-1 in the first match of the day.