Wittenberg sweeps Heidelberg
Tigers win rematch with Student Princes, advance to third round
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Looking for a berth in the regional final, No. 5 Wittenberg and No. 13 Heidelberg battled for the second time this season in a second-round matchup at Van Noord Arena. In its matchup earlier this season, Wittenberg defeated Heidelberg in three sets at the College of Mt. Saint Joseph Invitational.
Heidelberg (32-7, 9-0 Ohio Athletic Conference) advanced to the second round by means of a comeback victory against Geneva 3-2 (24-26,25-14,22-25,25-18,17-15) on Thursday.
Wittenberg (33-3, 16-0 North Coast Athletic Conference), in its 16th consecutive NCAA tournament, defeated Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 3-0 (25-15,25-10,25-11) in RHIT's first trip to the Tournament.
The first set was a back and forth battle. Both teams would have small leads before giving up a short run and the lead to the opposing team. Heidelberg would take an early 9-6 lead, but would then give up the lead as the teams tied at 12-12. Wittenberg would have its chance as it tied for the biggest lead of the first set at 22-19. Heidelberg would come back to tie at 23, but then give up the final two points as Wittenberg took the first set 25-23.
Heidelberg would come back strong in the second set, building up a 9-5 lead. Wittenberg would take the next seven points, however, building a 12-9 lead. The Tigers would stay ahead for the rest of the match, securing the second set 25-22.
Looking to secure its spot in the regional finals, Wittenberg would jump out to a 10-4 lead, its biggest of the night thus far. The Heidelberg would look to narrow the gap, but would only get as close as 11-7 before the Tigers started to widen it again. Wittenberg would take the third set 25-16, claiming the second-round victory.
Wittenberg played stellar defense all match long, racking up nine team blocks, 68 digs, and holding the Student Princes to a .072 attacking percentage. The Tigers were led on offense by senior Kimmie Dyer, who had 13 kills. Freshmen Megan Vodopich and junior Hallie Donathan added 18 assists and 15 assists apiece.
“It was quite a battle, and the stats reflect that,” Wittenberg head coach Paco Labrador said. “We've been pushing our defense as kind of our theme this season. I like the mentality that our team has -- we don't want to give up any kills at all.”
Heidelberg was led by Jacki Street, who tallied 10 kills. Junior Rachel Ferguson had 18 assists and 14 digs, while senior Jackie Reinhart added 13 digs and freshman Tessa Benanzer had 10 digs.
“We came out well, I was very pleased,” Heidelberg head coach Jason Miller said. “The team was focused and went out competing like Heidelberg volleyball. You give Wit points, they are going to take advantage of that, and they did. We're proud -- I'm proud of the kids. With what we faced this week, we did a good job.”