Volleyball Takes 11th Consecutive NCAC Championship Crown
The passion and energy of Coach Paco Labrador and his team could be felt through the stands, yet there was no surprise in the air as Wittenberg women’s volleyball claimed their 11th consecutive conference title on Saturday.
The Tigers of Wittenberg took down the Tigers of DePauw, three sets to none during their second match of the NCAC Championship Tournament. Capitalizing on several DePauw errors, women’s volleyball was handed Wittenberg’s fourth NCAC team trophy of the fall season.
Aubrey Cox, sophomore, was named the tournament most valuable player. The middle-blocker recorded seven blocks defensively, one being solo. Her .441 kill-percentage on 18 kills aided in the Tigers finishing the day on top.
Maddie Fischer, named to the all-tournament team, put up 26 kills between the two matches of the day, sending opponents sprawling on the floor in wake of her hard hits. The lone senior also recorded two aces and four block assists over six sets.
Joining Fischer and Cox on the all-tournament team was junior Kennedy Schmidt, recognized for her .316 kill-percentage. Tallying 16 kills over the six sets, the middle-hitter also contributed four block assists.
Wittenberg handed DePauw their only conference loss in a long five-set match in mid-October, allowing them to seek vengeance in Wittenberg territory. Despite a quick 3-0 victory during DePauw’s opening match, Ohio Wesleyan gave a battle, falling 20-25, 18-25 and 21-25.
Coach Labrador was fired up well into the second match, losing his voice halfway through the last set.
The first set Tiger-Tiger action was hard fought as Wittenberg climbed to the top, 25-23. The red and white overcame an 0-3 start that eventually bled into an 8-3 run for DePauw. DePauw errors, kills by juniors Karen Wildemann and Taylor Brown, and a pair of timeouts changed the pace of the set, in favor of Wittenberg.
Wittenberg opened the second set with a 3-0 run and later would rally a 7-2 run to the credit of kills by Fischer and Schmidt. The set came to a 28-26 close after junior Megan Flaherty subbed in to serve and set up a kill by Wildemann and an error by DePauw.
The final set began with a 6-0 run for the home team, complimented by a pair of kills each from Wildemann and Cox. The visiting Tigers had little fight left in them, as the Labrador and team pounded a 25-18 defeat to end the day.
The Tigers swept their first match against Denison under the rug with a 3-0 win on Saturday morning. Several attack errors by the Big Red and powerful offensive kills led to a 9-1 run in the first set. The Tigers eventually won the set, 25-15.
The second set challenged the Tigers, keeping an even score through over 40 serves. Wittenberg claimed the second set, 25-22, after kills by Cox and Fischer.
Third set rounded out the Tiger win, taking out Denison 25-19 to advance to the championship match. Brown recorded four kills, Fischer three and Cox three.
After Friday’s first round matches, All-NCAC awards were honored, following Fischer’s recognition as Wittenberg’s lone senior among the other 36 NCAC graduating players. Topping the Tiger’s three first-team honorees, Fischer was named Player of the Year and Labrador was named Coach of the Year.
The Tigers completed the 2017 regular season with a record of 20-2, ranking first in the nation on the American Volleyball Coach Association for the majority of the fall. The perfect 8-0 in NCAC play led to a regular season champion hardware for the trophy case, as well as number-one seeding in the NCAC championship bracket.
NCAC coaches recently voted to change the organization of the tournament bracket. The top two seeds were given a two-round bye, with their first bracket game on Saturday morning. Seeds three and four were allotted a one-round bye, with their first sets late Friday night.