Cal Lutheran sweeps, dances way to first Division III volleyball title
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- When you are in the big dance, it’s important to have some sweet moves.
The Cal Lutheran volleyball team had their dance moves down during each timeout on Saturday evening. And the Regals were the last ones standing when the match ended.
The Regals beat Wittenberg 3-0 to capture the school’s first national championship at the 2015 NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball Tournament at Calvin College.
“It was a full-on dance party during the 10-minute timeout in the locker room,” Cal Lutheran coach Kellee Roesel said with a smile. “We got the strobe light out and got dancing. You wouldn’t see me out there dancing. But the kids out on the court seem to like it, too.”
Cal Lutheran battled to win the first set 25-23, but cruised after that to a 25-18 and 25-16 to finish the season 31-5, which is a school record for wins.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” senior Michelle Lawrence said. “It’s amazing. We’ve worked the past 3-4 months for this. So many ups and downs. People didn’t think we’d make it this far and we fought through adversity.”
Allie Eason had the ball in her hands for the last point. The senior outside hitter said she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I love the pressure. I thrive on that,” said Eason, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament. “I’m pretty depressed that my career is over. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s awesome that we got to play the way we did in the last match of my career.”
Eason led all players with 13 kills and two services aces. Lawrence had eight kills and Monica Lundgren had nine.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do my entire career,” said Roesel, who has coach the Regals for 10 seasons. “I couldn’t be more proud of this group. I want to say this is for all the kids that came before these kids.”
Wittenberg coach Paco Labrador, who led the Tigers to the 2011 national title, said it was a good match with Cal Lutheran.
“It’s a good battle and that’s all you can ask,” said Labrador, who led the Tigers to a 29-3 record. “I have to give them credit. They have the mix that you need to win a championship.”
Of his own team, it’s a bittersweet ending.
“I’m happy for this team for getting this far,” he said. “I’m proud of them. I couldn’t think of a better way to spend two weeks. (The seniors), they’re fighters. A lot of them grew a ton. They are so different as they were as freshman. Their sense of humor and things that happen around athletics.”
It was the final match for Wittenberg senior Kara Seidenstricker, who was a three-time conference player of the year.
“This has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” Seidenstricker said of going to Wittenberg. “We’re a very, very close class. We’ve been through a lot.”
Lawrence, who transferred to Cal Lutheran from Division I Colorado State University, said she’s enjoyed her experience playing at a Division III school.
“I’ve seen both sides of the story playing Division I,” she said. “Division III has taught me that academics come first. Playing here it’s a huge stress reliever having fun with my sisters on the court and not feeling the pressure to have to fight for playing time.”
When the Regals woke up Saturday morning, the trees and grass were blanketed in snow, something several of the California players had never seen.
“There’s a drought in California, so we don’t get to see a lot of snow,” Roesel said with a smile.
The got snow in their hair on the walk into the gym and they had blue and white confetti in their hair as they walked out.
“They are so hard working,” Roesel said. “They have put volleyball in the front seat the past four months. They’ve sacrificed social lives and time that they could have been doing other things. They kept believing.”
The all-tournament team consists of: Most Outstanding Player Allie Eason (Cal Lutheran), Michelle Lawrence (Cal Lutheran), Nicki Tetherow (Cal Lutheran) Camila Quinones (Wittenberg), Kara Seidenstricker (Wittenberg), Stephanie Korbakes (Carthage) and Karen Chin (Carthage).