Nov. 13, 2009

Courtesy Carthage Athletics

The Carthage College women’s volleyball team (33-5), ranked eighth in the final, regular-season American Volleyball Coaches Association NCAA Division III poll, advanced to an NCAA regional championship match for the third-straight year with a 3-0 sweep of No. 22 Nebraska Wesleyan University (18-12) on Friday, Nov. 13 in the semifinals of the Central Regional Championship at the Washington University (Mo.) Field House in St. Louis, Mo. The Lady Reds’ winning set scores over the Prairie Wolves were 25-13, 28-26 and 25-19. No. 30 St. Mary’s University (Minn., 22-9) takes on No. 4 Washington (Mo., 29-4) in the other semifinal at 7 p.m. on Friday.  The Lady Reds are making their fifth-consecutive NCAA regional appearance.
Carthage opened play in the 62-team NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball Championship on Thursday, Nov. 12 with a 3-0 sweep of Simpson College (21-14) in the quarterfinal. In the other quarterfinal contests, No. 22 Nebraska Wesleyan University (18-11) defeated Wisconsin-Platteville (22-15), 3-1,; No. 30 St. Mary’s University (Minn., 22-9) defeated Thomas More College (28-11), 3-1; and top-seeded and No. 4 Washington (Mo., 29-4) swept Webster University (20-13), 3-0.  Nebraska Wesleyan’s winning set scores over Wisconsin-Platteville were 25-17, 20-25, 26-24 and 25-21.  St. Mary’s winning scores over Thomas More were 23-25, 25-21, 25-20 and 27-25.  Washington’s winning set scores over Webster were 25-17, 25-14 and 25-23.
In the Lady Reds’ semifinal win, Carthage dismantled Nebraska Wesleyan in the first set, 25-13. After falling behind, 3-1, in the early going, the Lady Reds used a 12-1 run to take a 13-4 lead and were never threatened after that. The lead went to 12 points, 20-8, and that was Carthage’s winning margin. Set two was a different story, although Carthage prevailed, 28-26. After falling behind, 2-0, the Prairie Wolves took off on a 10-5 run that gave them a 10-7 lead. The Lady Reds re-gained the lead, 12-11, fell behind, 13-12, and were tied at 15-15 before falling behind, 18-15. Carthage tied the set, 22-22, 23-23 and 24-24 before taking a 25-24 lead on a kill by Cindy Cavanagh. Nebraska Wesleyan tied it, 25-25, and took a 26-25 lead, but the Lady Reds tied at 26-26 before taking the final two points on back-to-back Cavanagh kills for a 28-26 decision.

The third set was a one or two-point contest until Carthage took a 12-9 lead. The lead went four points, 14-10 and again at 15-11 and 16-12 before the Lady Reds made it a six-point contest at 18-12 and again at 19-13. The Prairie Wolves closed to within two, 21-19, before Carthage ran off the final four points for a 25-19 decision.
Cindy Cavanagh (So., Naperville, Ill./Aurora-Waubonsie Valley) collected a match-high 12 kills and hit .308. Michelle Madeja (So., Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) had 11 kills, while Lauren Dembkowski (So., Mount Prospect, Ill./Arlington Heights-Hersey) had 10  kills and hit .235.  Libero Katie Lundgren (Sr., Long Grove, Ill./Lincolnshire-Stevenson) totaled 31 digs.

“I’d like to say I was surprised by the 12-1 run in the first set, but I really wasn’t," said Carthage head coach Leanne Ulmer.  "We came out to play, and Rachel Swoboda went on a tear with her serve in that set. It was impressive. We played great defense, and I think our serving got them off-balance in the beginning. When we got down, 23-19, in the second set, I was thinking, ‘Let’s turn this around.’ The girls put their serves where they were supposed to go, and we put some pressure on them. After the first set, we knew it was going to be a battle, so that win in the second set was probably the key to winning the match. If Nebraska Wesleyan ties that match, 1-1, who knows? I think that second set took some wind out of their sails."

"At the end of the third set," continued Ulmer, "we couldn’t get those points fast enough. Unlike basketball, time doesn’t run out. It seemed a long time before we got to 25 points. Everybody played very well against a very tough opponent. Washington University, if that’s who we play in the championship match, has had a great program for a lot of years. This year’s team is a little younger than the one we played in 2007 regional-championship match, but whoever we play will be a formidable opponent.”