ROCHESTER -- Ridgewater made its fourth straight appearance in the NJCAA Division III champion match on Saturday -- for the third time they left the Rochester Regional Sports Center with the runner-up hardware.
This time it was courtesy of Brookhaven College of Dallas, Texas. The topped-ranked Bears got the best of the Lady Warriors 25-17, 25-20 and 25-22.
"There is a reason Brookhaven has been No. 2 in Division three the majority of the season," said Ridgewater coach Joe Sussenguth. "Their serving strategyh kept us out of our system which limited the capability of our offense."
The Minnesota hitters faced double blocks and solid back-row defense.
Ridgewater tried aggressive serving to get the Bears' "extremely sharp" offense off stride but at a cost of missed serves.
This was the Bears fifth straight national show. They had lost in the semifinal round each of the last two years, including to the Willmar-based college last year.
The Lady Warriors got off to a good start in the championship match. Defensive stops at the net and some quick points put Ridgewater in the lead in game one. But the Bears put together sever scoring streaks, the Lady Warriors did not answer in the eight-point loss.
With dominating play, Brookhaven jumped up right away in game two and a couple of close calls went against the Minnesota team, adding to the points gap. A rally showed promise but it fell short in the 25-20 loss.
Again in game three, the Bears seized control and wouldn't let the Lady Warrior offense settle in. Down 17-9, Ridgewater bore down and closed to 16-20 and finally 20-24 before the Bears got the game/match/tournament point.
Carina Fesenmaier, Leah Miller and Karie Blommel were named all-tournament.
"I'm proud of this team," stated Sussenguth. "It's tough to see the season end. The freshmen really stepped up fill the gaps and they contributed immediately. All season, we faced competition that was worked hard trying to prevent us from returning to the national tournament. Our sophomores were outstanding and that was a big part of our success the past two years."
Ridgewater was also the runner-up in 2005 under Val Swanson, who then retired after a coaching career spanning four decades. Sussenguth's first team won the national title and has been second the last two years.
Against Brookhaven, Jordan Olerud was the kill leader with 11 with only one miss in 23 hits. Darcie Listul served up three aces on 11 of 14 deliveries. Carina Fesenmaier contributed 26 assists. Six kills, five digs, one ace and one serve. Stephanie Tillman made three ace blocks and Leah Miller had seven digs and four kills.