The Wittenberg (15-12) and DePauw (18-13) volleyball teams saw their seasons come to a close on Thursday night in the opening round of the 2019 NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament inside Van Noord Arena on the campus of Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
In the second match of the day, Wittenberg fell to Muskingum (27-3) 3-1. The Tigers started the match with a 1-0 lead after a 25-21 first-set win, but the Muskies responded back the next three sets, winning 25-21, 25-23, 25-17 to earn the first-round victory. Wittenberg sophomore Katie Hiestand (Canton, OH/St. Thomas Aquinas) posted her 15th double-double of the season with a team-high 13 kills to go along with 11 digs. The Tiger’s also got points from sophomore Paige Kucinic (Hilliard, OH/Darby), who tallied 11 kills, freshman Olivia Young (Rocky River, OH/Rocky River), who recorded eight kills and senior Aubrey Cox (Tipp City, OH/Tippecanoe), who claimed seven kills. Senior Taylor Yontz (Springfield, OH/Shawnee) posted 38 digs, while junior Lexie Weithman (Lewis Center, OH/Olentangy) earned 22 digs, senior Sarah Auble (Orrville, OH/Orrville) chipped in with 18 assists and 13 digs and sophomore Ashley Brooks (Cincinnati, OH/Mount Notre Dame) tallied 15 assists and eight digs.
In the final match of the day in Grand Rapids, DePauw fell 3-0 to a Calvin (25-2) team that was ranked third in the nation on the final AVCA national poll of the regular season. The Tigers started the first set strong, but lost momentum to the Knights advantage, who claimed seven unanswered points to end the set 25-18. Calvin then earned the next two sets by identical 25-16 scores to earn the first-round victory. DePauw was led by seniors Morgan Stearley (Center Point, IN/Northview) and Liv Hartman (Danville, IN/Danville) who each recorded eight kills in the match. Stearley added 10 digs on the night, while sophomore Jenna Purichia (Indianapolis, IN/Cardinal Ritter) also chipped in 10 digs. Sophomore Grace Filbrun ()Cutler, IN/Carroll) posted 12 assists and six digs on the night, while freshman Jessica Levy (Elmhurst, IL/York) tallied four kills and three digs and sophomore Allie Frymire (Dallas, Texas/Greenhill) contributed eight assists in the match.
Fourth-seeded DePauw (18-12) captured its first NCAC Volleyball Tournament title on Saturday, November 9, with a 3-1 victory over second-seeded Denison in the championship final.
As tournament champions, DePauw received the NCAC's automatic bid into the 2019 NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament. The Tigers will make their fourth-straight appearance in the national tournament, and ninth overall. Wittenberg (15-11) has earned an at-large bid into the national tournament and will make its 24th-straight NCAA appearance, and 25th overall.
In the eight-team, single-elimination NCAC volleyball tournament, the DePauw Tigers received a double bye into the semifinals where they knocked off top-seeded Wittenberg in three sets (25-21, 25-23 and 25-21) thanks to a 10-kill and 15-dig effort from senior Morgan Stearley (Center Point, IN/Northview). Stearley, the NCAC tournament MVP, added 22 kills, 17 digs and three blocks in the 3-1 (25-19, 25-16, 18-25, 25-21) championship victory over Denison. Depauw's Liv Hartman (Danville, IN/Danville) and Meaghan Etling (Terre Haute, IN/South Vigo) were also named to the all-tournament team for the Tigers, as Hartman tallied 22 kills and three blocks, while Etling posted six kills, six blocks and two digs in the tournament. Etling, Hartman and Stearley were joined on the All-Tournament team by Kenyon's Mackenzie Bruzzio (Flemington, NJ/Hunterdon Central), Wittenberg's Paige Kucinic (Hilliard, OH/Darby), and Denison's Lucy Anderson (Bloomington, IN/Bloomington) and Sidney Gossard (Westerville, OH/Olentangy Orange).
For the third year in a row, both Wittenberg and DePauw will be traveling to the same regional tournament and like last year, they will both head to Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI. The eight-team regional will be played Nov. 14-16. DePauw is 3-8 all-time in NCAA Tournament play, while Wittenberg is 49-23 in the national tournament.
DePauw will open the three-day regional tournament against No. 3 Calvin (24-2), the automatic qualifier out of the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association, on Thursday at 8:00 p.m. The winner will take on either No. 12 Ohio Northern (26-5) or Aurora (23-10) in the second round on Friday. On the other side of the bracket, Wittenberg will open play against No. 11 Muskingum (26-3), an at-large selection out of the Ohio Athletic Conference, on Thursday at 3:00 p.m. with the winner set to meet either Texas-Dallas (24-4) or No. 10 Hope (22-7) in the second round on Friday. The regional championship match will be played on Saturday.
The DePauw Tigers, led by 24-year head coach Deb Zellers, have gotten strong performances this season from Hartman and Stearley, the 2019 NCAC Player of the Year. Hartman has posted 283 kills (2.75/set), 57 digs (0.55/set) and 36 blocks (0.35/set), while Stearley has tallied 402 kills (3.90/set), 351 digs (3.41/set) and 40 blocks (0.39/set). Grace Filburn (Cutler, IN/Carroll) has recorded 605 assists (5.87/set) and 223 digs (2.17/set), while Allie Frymire (Dallas, TX/Greenhill) notched 400 assists (3.88/set) and Jenna Purichia (Indianapolis, IN/Cardinal Ritter) has totaled 517 digs (5.02/set).
The Wittenberg Tigers, led by second-year head coach Evelyn Carus, have been led this season by Katie Hiestand (Canton, OH/St. Thomas Aquinas), Ashley Brooks (Cincinnati, OH/Mount Notre Dame) and Taylor Yontz (Springfield, OH/Shawnee), the 2019 NCAC Libero of the Year. Hiestand has tallied 292 kills (3.48/set), 302 digs (3.60/set) and 30 blocks (0.36/set), while Brooks has notched 576 assists (6.55/set) and 21 blocks (0.24/set) and Yontz has posted 513 digs (5.70/set).
Complete NCAA Tournament information can be found online HERE.