ST. LOUIS -- Carthage (34-6, 7-0 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin) opened its first-ever appearance in the national quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament on Friday afternoon, with a 3-2 win against Springfield (34-3) at the Washington University Field House in St. Louis, Mo. Carthage's winning set scores against Springfield were 24-26, 25-18, 25-21, 19-25 and 15-6.

Also on Carthage's side of the bracket, Christopher Newport (37-4) defeated Cortland (42-2), 3-1 with winning scores of 20-26, 25-16, 25-10 and 25-18.  Carthage will take on Christopher Newport on Saturday, Nov. 20.  On the other side of the bracket, St. Thomas (Minn.) (32-4) will take on Eastern (35-2), and Wittenberg (34-3) will play California Lutheran (29-6).

Springfield took a 7-3 lead in the first set, which Carthage erased in fairly short order. The set was a one-point contest until the Lady Reds broke a 16-16 tied with four unanswered points to take a 20-16 lead. Carthage was up by three, 23-20, before the Pride scored three consecutive to tied the set at 23-23.  Following a tie at 24-24, Springfield took the final two points for a 26-24 decision. 

The Lady Reds fell behind right out of the chute in the second set.  The Pride took a 6-2 lead, prompting Carthage coach Leanne Ulmer to call a timeout.  She called another one a few minutes later, as the Lady Reds fell behind by eight, 10-2. Carthage rallied with a 9-4 run to pull to within three, 14-11. Following a point by the Pride to make it 15-11, the Lady Reds fired back with a 7-0 run to take a three-point lead, 18-15. Leading by two, 20-18, Carthage took the final five points to win by seven, 25-18. The Lady Reds outscored the Pride, 23-8, after Ulmer's second timeout.

“We're known for freaking out at the beginning of things,” admitted Carthage's Michelle Madeja.  “We just decided we had nothing to lose after falling behind that second set.”

Carthage has made a habit of putting itself on the brink of elimination. On Friday, they were there again against red-hot Springfield. Again, with their season on the line, the Lady Reds found a way to win..
• Complete story, click here

Carthage took a 5-1 lead in set three. Still leading by one, 7-6, the Lady Reds extended their lead to five points, 14-9. The Pride pulled to within three at 21-18.  Carthage ran off three consecutive points to go up by six, 24-18, before Springfield came back to make it a three-point set again, 24-21. Carthage won the set, 25-21. The Pride inched out to an 11-6 lead in set four. 

The Lady Reds got it back to a point on three occasions, the last time at 16-15, before Springfield opened up a four-point lead, 19-15. The Pride extended their margin to seven, 23-17, and went on to win the set by six, 25-19, to force the final set. A couple of Springfield miscues helped Carthage open up a 5-1 lead in the fifth set. 

After the Pride pulled to within two, 5-3, the Lady Reds took charge with a 10-3 spurt to close out the set with a 15-6 win.

"When your opponent starts making mistakes,” said Carthage's Drewann Pancratz “you want to run with it.  We had an opportunity with their mistakes, and we were not going to lose that last set. We've been down a lot of this year, and we just fight back and good things seem to happen.”

Michelle Madeja led Carthage with 20 kills. Cindy Cavanagh had 19 kills with a .516 attack percentage (19-3-31) and three block assists, while Lauren Dembkowski added 14 kills.  Setter Drewann Pancratz averaged 9.6 assists per set.

“I'm thrilled to get this first one,” said Carthage coach Leanne Ulmer. “The match wasn't the prettiest we've played this season, but we gutted it out against a very good Springfield team.  You can't get to the next one until you win the first one.  I'm proud of the way they battled back, even though we weren't at our best. The momentum can shift on a dime in volleyball, and I was happy to get through this one. Sometimes, we have a tendency to lose our minds, but we've played such a great schedule, that once we climb back and find our rhythm, we can play with anyone.”