|CNU Falls in National Championship Game, 3-0|
|Written by media relations|
|Monday, 21 November 2011 17:21|
Wittenberg in NCAA National Championship
Two Captains named to All-Championship Team
ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- In their 17th NCAA appearance and first National Championship, the Wittenberg University Tigers (37-3) won the 2011 NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Championship, dropping the sixth-ranked Christopher Newport University Captains (38-5), 3-0. The Tigers won by set scores of 25-21, 25-21, 28-26 for the program's first ever national title.
“[Wittenberg is] obviously a great team and we were privileged to play them. I think that we are a great team,” said head coach Lindsay Birch. “We were completely prepared for Wittenberg, but they played better than us tonight. They are an amazing team, have an awesome coach and they have a lot to be proud about. And we do as well. Obviously it’s the furthest we’ve been and there’s not one thing to hang our heads about.”
CNU tied the school record for wins in a season with 38 and danced deeper into the NCAA Tournament than ever before, with their first ever national championship appearance.
Junior Bailey Jensen broke the single season record for blocks, finishing the year with 150 and besting the previous mark set by Oksana Boukhtina by two. She led the NCAA Championships in blocks and was named to the All-Championship Team. She was joined on the All-Championship squad by defensive specialist Abby Hogge.
The match played much closer than the sweep would indicate, as both teams battled through runs and held leads throughout the night.
The two teams teetered in the first part of the set before Wittenberg took a three-point lead. CNU tied it at 13 and re-took the lead on a tip by Christie Fellows after a strong defensive showing in a long rally, saving the ball twice on what looked to be dead plays.
Wittenberg used a pair of CNU errors to re-take the lead, 18-17, and took two of the next three points to pull ahead 20-18 forcing a timeout. The Tigers run surged to 7-1, taking a 23-18 lead, the largest of the set. A kill by rookie Jessie Kolden and a block by senior All-American Jessie Heavenrich and Jensen closed it to three, 23-20, but the Tigers closed it out for a 25-21 win.
It was just the second set loss of the postseason for CNU, as the Captains fell down 0-1 to SUNY Cortland in the national quarterfinals before bouncing back to win, 3-1. All-American Kimmie Dyer and Christine Simpson each had four kills in the set, while Kolden led the way for CNU with five.
The Tigers kept the momentum into the second set, taking a 5-0 lead early before Jensen could get a kill to put CNU on the board. With the lead 7-2 in favor of Wittenberg, CNU showed their versatility with three straight points on kills by three different players. Another spurt from CNU cut the lead to two, 12-10, but Wittenberg again responded with a run to take an 18-12 lead.
The Captains took four of the next five points as the set continued to sway between the two teams, and CNU was back within three, 19-16. Back-to-back errors made it 19-18, getting the Captains as close as they had been since it was 1-0. However, Wittenberg ended the run with five straight to set up set point, 24-18. Sophomore Chastity Lacy sparked another mini-run for the Captains, getting the kill in her first play of the NCAA Championships, but Wittenberg closed out the set, 25-21, taking a 2-0 lead in the match.
CNU faced its first two-set deficit of the season and needed to win three straight for the match.
In the third, Christopher Newport opened the set with a raised energy, taking an early 5-2 lead, but Wittenberg scored three straight to pull even. The game of runs continued as CNU scored three, followed by four from Wittenberg and the set was tied at nine.
As the match teetered back and forth, it was the Tigers with a 15-13 lead halfway through the third set. Out of the media timeout, Jensen made a nice play against a block and a pair of errors by Wittenberg put CNU back up, 16-15. The Captains pushed the run to 6-1 on a pair of hard kills by Heavenrich and fellow senior Chelsea McClure. A soft touch from McClure and a power swing by junior right side Christie Fellows two points later made it 21-17. The Tigers scratched back with kills from Dyer and Hannah Riley, but Fellows hit a nice cross-court corner shot and Wittenberg had an error to set up set-point, 24-20.
But the Tigers would not go away, wanting to clinch the national championship in three, winning the next four points to tie it up at 24 and force extra serves. A kill by Dyer set up match point, but Jensen responded with a kill to give CNU the ball back at 25-all. A service error gave Wittenberg another chance but Jensen was there again. Dyer had another kill for a 27-26 lead and Meghan Vodopich was back to serve for the Tigers on their third point to win the championship. This time the Tigers would get the win on a kill by Simpson and won the match with a 28-26 final in the third.
Simpson was tremendous for the Tigers, finishing with 13 kills and no errors to lead the Wittenberg attack at .565. Dyer finished with 12 and a pair of setters, Hallie Donathan and Vodopich finished with 22 and 20 assists respectively.
Christopher Newport was led by Heavenrich, with 34 assists, 14 digs, a block and three kills. Fellows had a team-high 10 kills while hitting .304 and Hogge had another stellar night defensively with 19 digs against the hard-hitting Tigers.
Defensively, CNU posted another tremendous match, as Wittenberg came into the game hitting .381 in the NCAA Championship. Against CNU, the Tigers hit just .250, well below their season average of .277. Jensen had six blocks in the match to lead the way.
Christopher Newport wraps the season with a 38-5 overall record, matching last season’s program record number of wins. CNU will graduate two seniors in Heavenrich and McClure and return five starters to next year’s squad.