Tigers Cruise Past California Lutheran To Reach National Semifinals

Highlights from the NCAA Division III Quarterfinal vs. Cal Lutheran hosted by Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.

Video by Mike Martin Media

Hannah Riley

ST. LOUIS, Mo. — It is possible that the perfectionist in Wittenberg volleyball head coach Paco Labrador could still find something not to like in the final boxscore of his team's 3-0 NCAA Division III Tournament quarterfinal victory over California Lutheran. But he will have to look long and hard.

"We played very good volleyball tonight, and I am obviously pleased with the result," said Labrador, whose fifth-ranked Tigers improved to 35-3 and advanced to the fourth NCAA Division III Tournament semifinal in program history. "Our hitters were really doing their jobs well, the setters were putting balls in the right places and our defense was rock solid. California Lutheran is a very difficult team to defend, but I thought we did a great job."

The Tigers attacked at a phenomenal .451 clip, knocking down 39 kills against a measly two errors on 82 attack attempts in cruising to set victories of 25-17, 25-15, 25-12. The setting duo of junior Hallie Donathan (Tipp City, Ohio/Tippecanoe) and freshman Meghan Vodopich (Canton, Ohio/Perry) were rock-solid in their distribution with 16 assists apiece, setting the table for a passel of hitters, none of whom finished with more than 18 attack attempts.

The top Tiger in terms of kills was senior Kimmie Dyer (Copley, Ohio/Copley), who finished with 10 kills and zero errors in 18 attempts, but she had plenty of assistance. Senior Katie Sumner (Dublin, Ohio/Watterson) was just as lethal, contributing eight kills without an error, and senior Hannah Riley (Minerva, Ohio/Minerva) joined Dyer in finishing with an attack percentage above .500 as she banged home seven kills in 14 attempts without an error.

California Lutheran, ranked 17th nationally with a 29-7 final record, held the lead just once in the entire match, at 4-3 early in the second set. The Tigers, who are now 4-2 all-time in NCAA Division III Tournament quarterfinal matches (but 4-0 on neutral courts), were simply relentless on offense and equally efficient on defense, led by junior libero Christina Gilene (Milford, Ohio/McNicholas), who finished with a match-high 19 digs. Dyer added 10 digs and senior Miranda Sagle (Springfield, Ohio/Shawnee) chipped in with five total blocks (three solo) as the Regals were limited to a .168 attack percentage.

Now it's on to the national semifinals, where the Tigers have come up empty on three previous trips between 2005 and 2007. The foe this time will be Eastern University, which is making its first-ever Final Four appearance. Labrador knows his team must find a way to replicate its quarterfinal performance.

"For as well as things went for us tonight, that's how well things went for Eastern," said Labrador, who is now 292-41 in nine seasons at Wittenberg. "They beat a very good team in St. Thomas tonight, and I have no doubt that they will present a lot of new challenges to our team. I expect that will be a great match, definitely worthy of a national semifinal."

Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photo Gallery By: Erin Pence
Video Provided By: Washington University Sports Information