ST. LOUIS — Go ahead, back the Carthage women’s volleyball team into a corner. The Lady Reds have you just where they want you.
Some background: Down two games to Washington University in the regional final last weekend, Carthage came out on top.
Once again, the Lady Reds found themselves in a slightly different, albeit familiar situation during its NCAA Division III volleyball quarterfinal against streaking Springfield on Friday.
Springfield took game four and had all the momentum, but Carthage seized it right back in winning 24-26, 25-18, 25-21, 19-25, 15-6 at the Washington University Fieldhouse.
“As a team, we’re known for kind of freaking out in the beginning [of matches],” Carthage senior outside hitter Michelle Madeja said. “Today, everybody played their part.”
The decisive game in the quarterfinal match Friday showed Carthage’s true mettle. Carthage (34-6) amassed just one error to go along with 11 decisive kills.
While it wasn’t being down two games like the team was to Washington University (Mo.), facing a fifth game Friday still meant facing elimination.
“We’ve been here and we know what can happen to you,” Pancratz said. “We all looked at each other, trusted and believed in each other. We’ve been in the position a number of times where we’ve been down and we’ve fought back. No matter how we’ve been playing all year, we just fight until the end and good things come from that.”
The team’s never-say-die attitude has served them well.
One aspect of the final game that came out in Carthage’s favor before even the first serves was that Lauren Torvi, a top player for Springfield (34-3), started the game in the back row.
As senior setter Drewanne Pancratz put it, regardless of who was playing where, her team wasn’t going to go down without a fight – regardless of who the opponent was.
Carthage coach Leanne Ulmer said that she has had complete faith in her team to pull through against Washington University, Springfield, or whomever.
“In volleyball, momentum shifts on a dime,” Ulmer said. “We came out and played very well in that fifth game. We put pressure on them and they put pressure back on us.”
Carthage, playing in its first national semifinal, will have to keep the magic of tight teamwork gong for a couple more days.
“I’m thrilled,” Ulmer said. “I am just so excited for these seniors. I really put them through the grind this year. The match wasn’t our prettiest this season, but the girls gutted it out against a very good Springfield team.”