GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Paco Labrador sat high up in the stands alone with just his iPad and his thoughts.
It’s a good place to be for the Wittenberg women’s volleyball coach. Scouting his next opponent means his own team has already advanced.
Wittenberg swept Clarkson 3-0 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball Championship on Thursday in Grand Rapids, Michigan, hosted by Calvin.
“I am surprised,” Labrador said of beating Clarkson 25-11, 25-22, 25-21. “Once you get to this point in the season, every team is hitting its stride. Clarkson had a great season and a great regional. I was pleasantly surprised my team played well enough to do that. At the same time, I was expecting to go five with Clarkson.”
No. 6 Wittenberg, the highest ranked team in the eight-team field, next plays Hendrix on Friday at 5 p.m. ET. Hendrix beat Bethel 3-2.
Kara Seidenstricker, a senior from London, Ohio, has been the go-to player for the Tigers for years. But Labrador said his team has become more well-rounded this season.
“We have really been using Kara as a crutch for years,” said Labrador, who won the 2011 national title with Wittenberg. “We’ve been expecting her to win us games for along time. We finally figured out this year if we all can pitch in a little more, it will take a load off of Kara. It diversifies our offense and helps everyone.”
Seidenstricker finished with three kills and a service ace. But it was junior Emily Kahlig that really stepped up. The junior middle hitter from Coldwater, Ohio, led the team with 10 kills.
“Emily’s had a rough season,” Labrador said. “She started off the year playing very well. But then she had some very, very bad shin splints. To the point where she could not play in the month of October. So this is pretty special for her to rehab and do what’s best for the team.”
So what did Kahlig do to keep busy while rehabbing?
“She was on the courts with our middles,” Labrador said. “She was mentoring one of our freshman and talking her through things and helping out anyway she could.”
Kahlig graduated from Coldwater High School, which is located near the Indiana border and has just 4,000 residents.
“She’s one of the highest GPA kids on the team,” Labrador said. “She’s from a small town pretty much in the middle of nowhere in Ohio and she’s a farm girl. Just a wonderful athlete and a good kid.”
Freshman setter Megan Flaherty led the team with 15 assists and junior outside hitter Camila Quinones had nine kills and a service ace.