Volleyball loses in NCAC finals, wins at-large bid to NCAA tourney

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The DePauw University volleyball team won their quarterfinals and semifinals matches in the NCAC tournament over the weekend, but lost in the finals to No. 7 ranked Wittenberg College.

Despite losing the match, the team was awarded a bid to the NCAA tournament by the Division III selection committee on Monday.  

DePauw started off NCAC tournament play with a 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-14) win against Wooster College. Junior setter, Keegan Kollias had 27 assists for the Tigers, while first-year offensive hitter Kaylee Nichols led the team with 13 digs. DePauw had eight total service aces as a team.

The Tigers played Denison University in the semifinals of the tournament and beat the Big Red in straight sets, 3-0 (25-14, 25-17, 25-10). The Tigers outhit Denison .451-.059, and had 45 kills with only four errors. Offensive hitter, sophomore Suzanne Peters had a team-high 13 kills for DePauw, while Kollias had 34 assists and Nichols led with 11 digs.

In the NCAC finals, DePauw matched up against seventh ranked Wittenberg, but came up short, as the Tigers lost 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-22). Wittenberg outhit DePauw .300-.141 and also had 16 more kills.  Defensive specialist, senior Rachael Lenderman had 22 digs for the Tigers, while Peters had eight kills.  With the win, Wittenberg secured the automatic bid for the NCAA tournament.

“During our matches against Denison and Wooster we came out and set the tone quickly,” Lenderman said. “We never fell behind and kept the pressure on our opponents.  But Wittenberg made plays at crucial points of the match that changed the energy in their favor making it tough for us to come back.”  

Senior middle hitter Elisabeth Wilson said, “During the Denison and Wooster games our team connection was really strong and our front row and back row was feeding off of each other. In the title game we struggled to find momentum.”

Despite the loss to Wittenberg, DePauw still had a shot at winning an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. On Monday, during the selection show, the Tigers did receive one of 20 at-large bids to the NCAA tournament. This was largely due to the impressive season that DePauw had, as they finished the regular season with a 23-5 record.  “The whole team is extremely excited for the NCAA tournament and we are working really hard this week to prepare for our Thursday game” Kollias said,

Lenderman also commented on the exhilaration of getting a berth to the tournament. “When I heard the news I just started dancing, so let’s dance tigs!” Lenderman said.

In addition to qualifying for the NCAA tournament, three DePauw volleyball players were named to all-conference teams. Lenderman was named Libero of the Year in the NCAC while Keegan Kollias and Elisabeth Wilson were both named to the second team All-NCAC. All three players said they were honored to receive their awards, and they all stated they could not have done it without such a great team.

The Tigers will play  Carnegie Mellon University at Calvin College in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday at 5:30 p.m..