GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Kara Seidenstricker isn't the tallest or biggest player in the Calvin College gym this weekend, but there’s little question that her left arm is the most dangerous weapon in the tournament.
The Wittenberg University senior’s wicked jump serve nearly single-handedly buried Hendrix College 3-1 on Friday in the semifinals of the 2015 NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball Tournament in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“She started practicing that serve the second half of her freshman year,” Wittenberg coach Paco Labrador said. “In this gym she feels good serving in it.”
No. 6 Wittenberg (29-2) won 25-14, 16-25, 25-21, 25-12 and advances to the championship match Saturday at 7 p.m.
In the fourth set, Seidenstricker, who is a three-time Player of the Year in the North Coast Athletic Conference, had eight-straight booming serves to get the Tigers up 10-1.
“She hits a pretty great jump serve,” Hendrix coach Ryan Meek said. “I thought ‘we need to get out of this pretty quick.’ You don’t want to see her back at the service line. But I think the hallmark of this team has been … regardless, we step up to the fight.”
Labrador, who led the Tigers to a 2011 national title, said Seidenstricker could help win a second one.
“We won the national championship (in 2011),” Labrador said. “And two days later I called Kara and said ‘Did you watch? Don’t you think it would be fun to be a Tiger?’”
The Tigers had a big fan section, including the family holding up large posters of the faces of each player and two fans dressed in tiger costumes.
“The Wittenberg community is always there for us,” said senior outside hitter Kristina Fultz, who graduated from Glen Este in Batavia, Ohio. “I think one of our students was in the tiger outfit, but my fathead (poster) was being held up by my twin brother.”
Seidenstricker, who is from London, Ohio, and graduated from Jonathan Alder High School, agreed.
“We are very grateful for all the support we get on campus,” Seidenstricker said. “Just knowing you are going to have the fan base her and back home is awesome to have.”
Melissa Emming and Seidenstricker each had nine kills. Emily Kahlig had eight kills. Fultz led the team with 26 digs and Seidenstricker had 23. Lauren Petrisin led Hendrix with 10 kills. MC Rogers and Bradi Ryan each had nine.
Hendrix senior libero Felicia Beeman wiped away a few tears while talking about her journey joining a program that had never had a winning season as a freshman to reaching the Final Four this year.
“I didn’t believe I’d be here in front of any of you guys today,” said during a news conference. “I didn’t think we’d have a winning record … ever.”
Meek said his three seniors - Beeman, Jill Sikes and Catey May - put a lot of faith in him.
“They came to a school in the middle of Arkansas and we were really bad,” he said with a laugh. “Felicia, Jill and Catey May stuck it out for four years. They were the first pioneers that bought into our vision.”