GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- If Michelle Lawrence has an on/off switch, the light clicked on when it mattered most.
The junior outside hitter from California Lutheran had six huge kills in the fifth set of a wild 3-2 win over Carthage on Friday evening in the semifinals of the 2015 NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball Tournament at Calvin College.
“Kevin Judd, assistant coach of the year!” Lawrence said with a smile. “He told me ‘It’s time to turn Michelle on. And I did. The support and confidence people had in me helped.”
Cal Lutheran (30-5) advances to the championship match on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET, where they will take on Wittenberg (29-2).
“Wittenberg is always very good,” Cal Lutheran coach Kellee Roesel said. “(Coach) Paco Labrador always has them prepared.”
Cal Lutheran had to rally to get to the fifth set, but won 25-12, 25-27, 21-25, 25-22 and 15-11.
“We know we aren’t done yet,” Cal Lutheran senior Allie Eason said. “But getting the opportunity to fight for a national championship is awesome.”
Eason and Lawrence each had 19 kills. But an inspired fifth set was key.
“It was great seeing Michelle take over,” Eason said. “Seeing her step up and it made me very happy. She’s a stud. That’s where (my drive) came from.”
Another key move was when Roesel inserted senior Pua Mo’Okini-Oliveira, who has played limited minutes this season, in late and she stepped up with two key kills.
“Pua has been a clutch player for us,” Roesel said. “She could ave given up and gone through the motions. But she believes in the program.”
Carthage coach Leanne Ulmer would have liked to win, but was happy with how her team played.
“That was championship worthy,” Ulmer said. “Give them credit. We got a little out of sorts there and (Cal Lutheran) came through. Amazing match. We made them have to beat us.”
Ulmer said she will miss Karen Chin, her all-american setter, who had 50 assists on Friday.
“We’re going to miss the heck out of Karen,” Ulmer said. “But we’ll keep going on what they’ve built here.”
Cal Lutheran has been here before. In 2013, they reached the championship match.
“The last time (we were here), me and Allie and some other girls, we were sophomores,” Mo’okini-Oliveira said. “It’s an experience to say we get to have some of the younger girls do this now.”
Lawrence is basking in the moment.
“We have been working toward this moment for ever practice, meeting and whenever we are together,” she said. “We are so blessed.”
Carthage junior Stephanie Korbakes had a game-high 20 kills.
“I wanted to go all out,” Korbakes said. “This was the last weekend and we wanted to leave it all out on the floor and see what happened.”