Nov. 11, 2010

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - The Wittenberg Tigers played their way through some second-set jitters to put together a 3-0 victory over rival Ohio Northern University in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Division III Tournament.

The win, by set scores of 25-16, 27-25, 25-13, advanced the Tigers to 31-2 overall on the season and into the second round against sixth-ranked Hope at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12, also in Wittenberg's Pam Evans Smith Arena. Seventh-ranked Calvin and 13th-ranked Heidelberg will square off in the regional tournament's first semifinal at 3:30 p.m.

The Tigers and Polar Bears have met numerous times in national tournament competition, including seven November meetings since 2000. The Polar Bears had twice defeated Wittenberg on its home court, including the most recent NCAA Division III Tournament meeting, a 2008 ONU win in which the Polar Bears rallied from a 2-0 deficit.

This time, the Tigers closed things out with a flourish, jumping out to a big lead in the third set and playing some of their best volleyball down the stretch. After attacking at solid .273 and .200 clips in the first two sets, Wittenberg pounded out 17 kills against just two errors in 30 attack attempts in the third set to secure the win.

The Tigers also jumped out to a big lead in the first set, grabbing control with a five-point serving run by junior Kimmie Dyer (Copley, Ohio/Copley) that turned a 3-1 deficit into a 6-3 advantage. The set ended with a rush as well, as Wittenberg won nine of the last 12 points.

The second set was a tense back-and-forth affair that featured 14 tie scores and eight lead changes. The key swing occurred with Wittenberg facing a 23-20 deficit. Dyer pounded a pair of kills as the Tigers rattled off four straight points, including three in a row on the serve of sophomore Hallie Donathan (Tipp City, Ohio/Tippecanoe). With the score tied at 25, junior Hillary Monnin (Russia, Ohio/Russia) came up with a clutch kill and junior Miranda Sagle (Springfield, Ohio/Shawnee) finished the set off with a block.

Individually, Wittenberg was paced by the tremendous all-around performances of outside hitters Monnin and Dyer. Between them, they shared 63 attack attempts, making just four errors while pounding 29 kills. Dyer added 15 digs and a solo block, while Monnin contributed seven digs and two total blocks.

Senior Amy Cox (Newark, Ohio/Catholic) was strong as well, leading both teams with 38 assists, while sophomore Christina Gilene (Milford, Ohio/McNicholas) topped the team with 16 digs. Donathan added eight digs.

Ohio Northern was led offensively by Ellen Grenert with seven kills and Kelly Smerekanich with 20 assists. Kasey Roeser was solid defensively with 19 digs.