Wittenberg knocks out champs
Tigers get revenge from last two seasons in 3-1 win vs. Calvin
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- The third time was definitely a charm for the Wittenberg Tigers. Eliminated by Calvin in the 2009 and 2010 NCAA Division III tournaments, the Tigers turned the tables on the defending national champion Knights 3-1 to advance to their first national quarterfinal since 2007.
The victory, by set scores of 25-18, 19-25, 25-18, 25-10, earns the Tigers a trip to St. Louis, where Wittenberg will take on the winner of the regional tournament hosted by California Lutheran on Friday, Nov. 18. Wittenberg, ranked fifth in the nation, will carry a 34-3 overall record into the match.
The win moved the Tigers to 6-3 all-time in regional championship matches, with Calvin being the opponent in three of those confrontations. In 2006, the Tigers defeated a favored Calvin 3-0 squad on its home floor, but the Knights answered with a 3-1 win against a favored Wittenberg squad on its home court last year.
The rubber match came with Calvin as the heavy favorite, sporting a perfect 33-0 record, including a 3-2 barnburner over the Tigers on Sept. 16 in Springfield. But the No. 1-ranked Knights were unable to solve Wittenberg's scrappy defense, attacking at a meager .099 clip as the Tigers finished with 58 kills, compared to 33 for Calvin.
The key, according to Tigers head coach Paco Labrador, was Wittenberg's defense. He credited junior libero Christina Gilene with being "the anchor of our defense."
"Her ability to keep balls off the floor and keep motivating the back row to play crazy defense," added Labrador, who is now a phenomenal 293-41 in nine seasons at Wittenberg.
That "crazy" defense set up the Tigers' offense well. Junior setter Hallie Donathan dished out 27 assists and freshman setter Meghan Vodopich added 17 assists to power an offense that featured six different players with at least seven kills in the match.
The leader offensively was senior Kimmie Dyer, who earned Regional Most Valuable Player honors on the strength of 15 kills, her third consecutive match in double figures. Seniors Hannah Riley and Christine Simpson added nine kills apiece.
Gilene capped another tremendous weekend with a match-high 24 digs, leading four players in double figures. Riley and Vodopich were credited with 12 digs each, while Dyer -- who topped the 1,000-dig plateau on Friday -- chipped in with 11.
Gilene joined Dyer on the Regional All-Tournament team. The third Tiger representative was senior Katie Sumner, who added eight kills to the attack to go along with six blocks.