Nov. 13, 2009

Courtesy Ohio Northern Athletics

HOLLAND, Mich. - Senior Liz Schnelle was nearly unstoppable with 27 kills and a .453 hitting percentage, leading the No. 5 Ohio Northern volleyball team past North Central (Ill.) 25-12, 22-25, 25-20, 25-16 Friday evening at the DeVos Fieldhouse.

The Polar Bears improve to 30-3 on the season and will advance to the Great Lakes Regional Championship for the third straight season.

The Cardinals end their season with the most wins in school history at 35-5.

Joining Schnelle in double-figure kills was junior Abby Schaller who was one kill away from tying a career-high with 16 kills. She also hit a solid .267 for the match.

Junior setter Kelly Smerekanich recorded a double-double in the match with 50 assists and 11 digs. She also added three blocks.

Smerekanich was only one of five Polar Bears with more than 10 digs.

Sophomore libero Kasey Roeser led the way with 32, junior Renee Berry had 20, sophomore Nicole Howard had 15 and senior Liz Decima had 12.

Roeser began the match on a positive note for Ohio Northern, picking up two straight aces to begin play. She ended the match one shy of tying a career high with three aces.

The early aces set the tone for Set 1, as the Polar Bears tough serving kept the Cardinals out of system while recording three aces as a team.

The Polar Bears' momentum translated into a 13-7 lead, forcing North Central to use its first timeout of Set 1.

Northern did nothing but build on the lead over the next nine points, going on a 6-3 run and taking a commanding 19-10 advantage and eventually ending the set 25-12.

No one for North Central could contain Schnelle in the first set. On seven attempts, Schnelle had six kills and hit one ball out of bounds for a .714 hitting percentage.

As a team, the Polar Bears hit a phenomenal .609 in Set 1 with 15 kills, one error and 23 attempts.

North Central played better in every aspect of the game to begin Set 2, and after being down 3-1, the Cardinals went on a 9-3 run to take a 10-6 lead.

The lead stayed at four points late in Set 2 with the Cardinals leading 18-14, prompting an Ohio Northern timeout.

Out of the timeout, back-to-back kills from Schaller and Schnelle and a hitting error by NCC brought the Polar Bears within one point at 18-17, forcing the Cardinals to use a timeout.

Northern would have the set tied as late as 22-22, but NCC finished on a 3-0 run to take Set 2 25-22.

Ohio Northern scored the first two points of Set 3 but quickly found itself behind in the score again.

The Polar Bears were able to regain the lead at 10-9 after a kill by Lindsey Pruneski and built the lead to three points at 12-9.

The Cardinals were not rattled, however, as they went on a 5-1 run to capture a 14-13 lead.

Each team traded points for much of the rest of Set 3, but Schnelle put the Polar Bears up 22-20 with a kill after an extremely lengthy rally.

NCC called a timeout in attempt to halt the rally, but ONU got another kill from Schnelle, an ace by Schaller and a block by Schnelle and senior Sharon Guzik to end Set 3 25-20.

The Polar Bears found themselves in a 9-6 hole in Set 4, but scored the next four points to take a 10-9 lead that was capped off by a block by Smerekanich and Pruneski.

After a 10-6 run, Ohio Northern found itself ahead in Set 4 20-15.

The Cardinals would score the next point, but Ohio Northern would end the match with five consecutive points, including two kills from Schnelle, a kill from Schaller, an ace from Roeser and an error by NCC.

North Central libero Stephanie Ryding was sensation, flustering the Polar Bear attackers at times with a match-high 37 digs.

Ohio Northern will play in the Great Lakes Regional Championship tomorrow night at 7 pm against the winner of No. 11 Calvin and No. 6 Hope.