2015 NCAA III Volleyball Regional Tournament Preview at Grand Rapids, Michigan

2015 NCAA III Volleyball Regional Tournament Preview at Grand Rapids, Michigan

CALVIN COLLEGE (28-3)

Calvin enters the NCAA III Tournament ranked fourth nationally. The Knights are making their 25th appearance in the national tournament. Calvin is 43-24 (64.2%) in the NCAAs with two national championships, two second place finishes, and two fourth place finishes. Calvin is 30-9 in NCAA III Tournament play under current head coach Amber Warners. Calvin is making its 25th appearance in the NCAA III Tournament including its 12th straight under Amber Warners.

At 28-3, Calvin has reached the 20-win plateau for the 21th consecutive year and for the 15th straight year under head coach Amber Warners.  Warners is currently in her 15th year as a head collegiate volleyball coach which includes 14 years at Calvin and one year as interim coach at Hope (1994). Heading into tonight, Warners is 442-79 (.845) as a collegiate volleyball coach and 420-68 (.858) at Calvin. Heading into the 2015 season, Warners was ranked second among active Division III coaches among winning percentage and 14th among all coaches at any NCAA (I, II or III) level. 

Calvin captured the 2015 MIAA regular season and 2015 MIAA Tournament crowns this fall. Calvin is led by senior outside hitter Maggie Kamp was named the 2015 MIAA Most Valuable Player and landed a spot on the All-MIAA first team for the third straight year. Junior middle hitter Laura Danhoff and sophomore setter Jenna Lodewyk were both named to the 2015 All-MIAA first team for the second straight year.

Freshmen Anna Kamp and Keilahna Castillo were both named to the All-MIAA second team. An outside hitter, Anna Kamp was named the MIAA's Freshman of the Year.

Last week, Maggie Kamp and Jenna Lodewyk were both named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District 6 team and are now both eligible for CoSIDA Academic All-America consideration.

CARTHAGE COLLEGE (31-7)

The Lady Reds enter the 2015 NCAA Tournament ranked 13th in the country after a 31-7 season and claiming a share of the regular season and College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin tournament titles.  Carthage found themselves in unfamiliar territory in the CCIW tourney as the #3 seed for the semifinals but was able to upset #2 Illinois Wesleyan and defeat #4 Elmhurst in straight sets to capture the conference’s automatic bid.

 2015 marked Leanne Ulmer’s 15th season at the helm of the Lady Reds and enters the tournament with a record of 441 wins against only 125 losses.  This past week Ulmer was voted the CCIW Co-Coaches of the Year by her peers marking the eighth time in her tenure with Carthage she has received the recognition.

After earning a share of the award in 2014, Karen Chin claimed the CCIW Player of the Year award outright in 2015.  Undoubtedly one of the best players on the court night in, night out, Chin ranked second in the conference at 9.95 assists per set and third in service aces at .40 per set.

Chin was also a part of the duo that rewrote the record books in 2015.  First, on October 17th, senior Emily Heuermann broke Michelle Madeja’s school record for kills in a career with her 1,581st kill as a Lady Red coming against Bluffton.  Three days later it was Chin’s turn as a 33-assist performance pushed her past Drewann Pancratz for the Lady Reds’ career assist mark of 4,656.

Following the season, joining Karen Chin and head coach Leanne Ulmer with CCIW all-conference honors were Emily Heuermann on first team along with Chin.  Stephanie Korbakes and Stefanie Romanowski were All-CCIW second team, and senior Bria Hailey was named to the third team.

In addition to the third team honors for Bria Hailey, she was the lone Lady Red named to the District Six Academic All-District Team by CoSIDA last week.

CORNELL COLLEGE (15-14)

Cornell, a 2014 regional finalist, is back in the NCAA field for the fifth consecutive year. The Rams earned the Midwest Conference’s automatic berth with a 25-18, 25-14, 24-26, 25-10 home win over St. Norbert in the championship match of the MWC Tournament. 

The Rams overcame a slew of early-season injuries and a 3-10 start to secure their fourth straight MWC championship. They improved to 47-1 in conference competition since 2012. Cornell finished 9-1 in league play during the regular season, avenging the lone blemish against St. Norbert last weekend.

Cornell enters the tournament having won 10 of its last 11 matches. The Rams recorded their first two NCAA wins in program history last year before bowing out in the regional final in a five-set battle with UW-Stevens Point. Six current Rams played in that finals match, including 2015 First Team All-MWC performers Diamond Boyd and Lauren Ahart, both juniors.

Boyd, also a member of Cornell’s basketball team, led the MWC in conference-only matches with 3.85 kills per set. Ahart posted a league-best .350 attack percentage and ranked second in blocking (1.31 bps). Freshman Nicole Ciari, a second team all-conference pick, also averaged 1.31 blocks in conference play.

The Rams rank 12th nationally in blocking with 2.44 per set. Ahart’s 114 total blocks rank eighth on Cornell’s single-season list.

The Rams are 1-4 against this year’s NCAA field. They handed tournament qualifier Gustavus Adolphus (27-2) one of its two losses this season.

Jeff Meeker, a four-time reigning MWC Coach of the Year, owns a 267-189 record in 14 seasons with the Rams. Cornell has won 73.5 percent of its matches under Meeker’s guidance since 2011. Meeker is 328-254 overall in 18 collegiate seasons, which includes four years at Iowa Wesleyan. 

DOMINICAN UNIVERSITY (25-9)

The Dominican University women’s volleyball team, 25-9 overall, is making their fifth NCAA Division III national tournament appearance and second under second-year head coach Jeanne Czipri.  The Stars solidified their spot in the national tournament on Saturday evening, erasing a 2-0 deficit to upend the top-seeded Edgewood College Eagles (21-25, 18-25, 26-24, 25-15, 15-12) in the finals of the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference (NACC) to claim the conference’s AQ to the national tournament for the third consecutive season.

Dominican, led by two-time all-region setter Christina Wilson, features a balanced offensive attack that ranks 16th nationally, averaging 13.35 kills per set.  Utilizing six hitters that averaged more than 1.8 kills per set throughout the year, Wilson collected 1,396 assists on the season, ranking second in NCAA Division III and landing her NACC Co-Player of the Year honors for the second straight season.  The Stars’ all-time leader in assists, Wilson eclipsed the 4,000-career assist mark on October 30 in the Stars’ three-set win over Illinois Tech.

Defensively, Dominican is led by Caitlen Foote, a three-time All-NACC selection as an outside, as the senior transitioned to libero for the year.  Throughout the season, Foote collected 654 total digs, ranking 17th nationally and second in the NACC to earn All-NACC First Team honors.  As a team, Dominican’s 2,420 total digs ranks top ten nationally and led the conference.

After a 7-1 start to the season, the Stars cracked the AVCA Women’s Division III Top 25 poll for the first time in program history on September 15.  Dominican’s stint in the top 25 was short-lived with the Stars dropping out the following week but the Stars were able to post a 3-5 record in eight matches against teams in the AVCA Top 25 on the year.

ELMHURST COLLEGE (24-11)

Elmhurst returns to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth consecutive season and the 20th time in the program’s rich history that includes Division III National Championships in 1983 and 1985. Head Coach Julie Hall is in her 21st season with the Bluejays and brings a 590-285 record into the NCAA Tournament. A six-time CCIW and four-time Midwest Region Coach of the Year, Hall has a 14-11 record in the NCAA Tournament in 11 previous appearances. The Bluejays advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 2012 and have won their first-round contest each of the past four seasons.

Nationally ranked all season long, including 17th in the latest AVCA Division III Poll, the Bluejays bring a 24-11 into the tournament after advancing to the CCIW Tournament Finals last week. Junior setter Hannah Nimrick leads the Bluejays on the court, earning first-team all-conference honors for the second consecutive season.

Ranked second in the nation in triple-doubles, Nimrick averaged 8.5 assists, 2.28 kills and 2.71 digs per set. Sophomore middle hitter Mary Lawrence earned second-team all-conference accolades after ranking second on the squad in kills (2.46 per set) and ranking among the national leaders in blocks per set (1.02). Sophomore libero Amy Schryver was named to the third-team all-conference squad after leading the squad in digs per set at 4.43. Sophomore outside hitter Alli Rogers leads the squad in kills, averaging 2.79 per set.

ILLINOIS WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY (22-9)

A young Illinois Wesleyan team got a share of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin regular season championship for the first time since 2003 and qualified for their first CCIW Tournament appearance since 2007.

The Titans got three players on the CCIW all-league squads, led by sophomore Kyleigh Block on the first team with freshman Tyler Brown and Mary Rankin, the team's only senior, on the second team. Brown, the daughter of IWU head coach Kim Nelson-Brown, was named the "Newcomer of the Year" in the CCIW, following Block's receiving the honor in 2014.

Block had 10 service aces in a match against Martin Luther College in October and Rankin has provided 585 digs this year, third best in an IWU season. She had a school-record 44 digs in a five-set match vs. Augustana.

During the course of the regular season, Illinois Wesleyan earned its first-ever national AVCA top 25 ranking and the Titans knocked off four nationally-ranked teams - Coe, Chicago, Elmhurst and Carthage - all in five sets.

Nelson-Brown is in her 20th season as head coach and earned her 400th career victory this season. With a career record at IWU of 401-302, Nelson-Brown was a four-year letterwinner at Division I Illinois State University (1990-93) and was the Missouri Valley Conference "Most Valuable Player" in both 1992 and 1993. She was elected to the Illinois State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.

UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN LACROSSE (20-9)

The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse volleyball team enters the 2015 NCAA Division III Championship with a 20-9 overall record.  The Eagles, picked to finish eighth in the 2015 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Preseason Poll, earned a share of their 10th regular-season league title and first since 2003, with a 6-1 record.

UWL, one of 20 at-large selections to this year’s NCAA III Championship, is making its 13th appearance in school history in the national tournament and first since 2008.

The Eagles placed third at the WIAC Championship with a 3-1 (25-22, 25-20, 16-25, 26-24) victory at 18th-ranked UW-Oshkosh November 7.  Sophomore Stephanie Henk led UWL with 18 kills while senior Jaclyn Barrette recorded 53 assists and senior Danica Johnson 24 digs.  Jill Entinger finished with six block assists.

UWL earned its first 20-win season since 2008 (28-12).

Entinger and Barrette were selected to the 2015 All-WIAC Team with Entinger being named the WIAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year.  She is the third player in school history to earn WIAC Player of the Year honors.  Putzier and Henk were named to the 2015 All-WIAC Honorable Mention Team.

Lily Hallock, in her fourth year as UWL’s head coach, was named the 2015 WIAC Coach of the Year.  She served as a graduate assistant coach at Smith College (Mass.) prior to coming to UWL in 2012.  Hallock was a four-year starting setter at the University of California, Santa Cruz from 1999-2003, earning first team all-conference honors her senior season.


UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN STEVENS POINT (26-8)


UW-Stevens Point is making its fifth consecutive appearance in the Division III Women’s Volleyball Championship after receiving one of 20 at-large “Pool C” berths into the field. After being seeded fifth in the conference tournament, the Pointers earned five-set road wins over UW-Eau Claire and UW-Oshkosh before falling in three sets to UW-Whitewater in the final of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championship.

UW-Stevens Point enters the national tournament with a 26-8 mark. After starting the season 10-0, the Pointers went 10-7 over a 17-match stretch from mid-September to mid-October but rebounded to win six straight matches prior to the loss to UW-Whitewater. The Pointers are led offensively by All-WIAC selection Gabby Thomas and honorable mention pick Kelly Cefalu, while Emma Brunkhorst was an AVCA First Team All-American last season.

Defensive specialist Hannah Picel was also an All-WIAC selection and is the program’s all-time leader in career digs, while setter Brittany Laffin was an honorable mention all-conference performer as a freshman and ranks in the top 20 nationally in assists per set. UW-Stevens Point is led by third-year head coach Abbey Sutherland, who has a career record of 94-18 and has led the Pointers to back-to-back appearances in the national semifinals, two WIAC regular season titles and two WIAC Tournament titles.

UW-Stevens Point has been ranked in the AVCA’s top 20 throughout the season and currently sits at No. 14. The Pointers have played 12 matches against NCAA Tournament teams this season, winning five.