Nov. 12, 2010

* Courtesy of Wittenberg Athletics

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - The Wittenberg Tigers won their 20th straight match and improved to 10-1 against teams currently ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association NCAA Division III Top-25 with a 3-0 regional semifinal victory over visiting Hope.

The win moved the second-ranked Tigers to 32-2 on the season and put them back in a regional championship match for the first time since 2007, the year Wittenberg reached the national semifinals for a third consecutive season. Hope capped its season with a 27-5 record, including a pair of losses on Wittenberg's home floor.

After Hope's chief rival Calvin had secured a 3-1 win over Heidelberg in the first semifinal, the Tigers quashed any hopes of those two teams meeting for a fourth time in 2010 by set scores of 25-20, 26-24, 25-17. Wittenberg and Calvin will meet for the second time in 2010 - the Tigers won the first match-up, also in Springfield, 3-0 on Sept. 17 - and the second time in a regional final in the last five years. The Tigers defeated Calvin on the Knights' home floor by a 3-0 count to win the regional title in 2006.

Among several keys for the Tigers against Hope - a national semifinalist in 2009 - was the play of senior setter Amy Cox (Newark, Ohio/Catholic). In addition to doing her primary duty, dishing out 33 assists against just two ball-handling errors, Cox knocked down six kills in 13 attack attempts without an error, and she even contributed seven digs, two blocks and a service ace.

Her steady hand never allowed Hope any chance for a long scoring run, even in a tense second set. Wittenberg had a seemingly comfortable 20-15 lead, but the Flying Dutch won seven of the next nine points to even the match at 22. With the score tied at 24, Cox played a set to junior outside hitter Kimmie Dyer (Copley, Ohio/Copley), who pounded a kill. Then Dyer teamed up with junior Miranda Sagle (Springfield, Ohio/Shawnee) to block Hope's Jacie Fiedler for the clutch set point.

Fiedler and Dyer shared match honors with nine kills, while junior Katie Sumner (Dublin, Ohio/Watterson) turned in a strong performance as well with eight kills on 15 attack attempts without an error. She also finished with three service aces, four digs and a block. Juniors Christine Simpson (Dublin, Ohio/Scioto) and Hillary Monnin (Russia, Ohio/Russia) added seven kills apiece.

While Cox was the engine for the offense, the Tiger defense received quite a lift from sophomore libero Christina Gilene (Milford, Ohio/McNicholas). Her acrobatic play kept numerous points alive as she piled up a match-high 20 digs. She even contributed four assists.

Calvin and Wittenberg are scheduled for a 7 p.m. starting time on Saturday. The winner advances to the NCAA Division III Tournament quarterfinals at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., on Friday, Nov. 19.