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Warriors fall short in national title match

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Ridgewater’s quest for a fifth NJCAA national championship came to an end on Saturday as the Warriors fell short against Harper College (Illinois) in a three-set championship match.

Harper finished the season 43-1 and as the No. 1 seed its ability was apparent from the start against the second-seeded Warriors. Harper grabbed the first set with a 25-21 win and followed that up with a close 25-22 second set victory.  

The Hawks completed the sweep in the third, winning 25-19.

“In championship games, the end result is often dictated by what team makes the fewest errors and who makes the most defensive places,” said Warrior head coach Joe Sussenguth. “We fell short in both of those areas, which ultimately led to our demise.”

The Warriors kept it close in all three sets and carried leads throughout the match but Harper was able to fight back each time.

“We weren’t as aggressive as we needed to be at times and it led to errors or opportunities for Harper to counter-attack,” Sussenguth said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold on to leads that we had in every set, although we were competitive throughout the match. Credit has to be given to Harper, though. There are many reasons why they were a 43-1 team this year.”

It’s the first championship for Harper and leaves a bitter taste for the Warriors who reached the championship despite injuries and a young team. The Warriors overcame a tough injury to 2015 All-American Natalie Feldhake early on in the season and relied on four freshmen at the net to earn kills.

“This team has shown tremendous character throughout the season,” Sussenguth said. “We’ve battled through so many injuries, yet players stepped up, changed roles and really exemplified our team-first philosophy. I’m extremely proud of all we accomplished and grateful for the opportunity to work with these outstanding young women.”

Harper 3, Ridgewater 0Ridgewater (26-6)............................ 21 22 19Harper (43-1).............................. 25 25 25RidgewaterServing (aces): Catelyn Haug 2, Jamie Goblirsch 1, Lexie Skoglund 4 … Set assists: Baylie Kubesh 19, Haug 1, Sadie Pingel 1, Kallee Anderson 1, Goblirsch 6 … Hitting (kills): Kubesh 1, Hailey Leiding 6, Haug 1, Kiana Johnson 10, Ashley Froelich 11 … Blocking (aces): Leiding 1, Johnson 1 … Digs (5 or more): Kubesh 14, Goblirsch 15, Skoglund 11

Serving (aces): Ariana Chelini 1, Katelyn Sommers 2, Emily Huprich 1, Kayla Mayer 1 … Set assists: Hannah Moore 3, Chelini 1, Ellie Burzlaff 1, Sommers 27, Mayer 3 … Hitting (kills): Chelini 3, Burzlaff 7, Kathryn Novy 9, Sarah Udoni 5, Sommers 4, Marielle Lugo 8 … Blocking (aces): none … Digs (5 or more): Chelini 10, Burzlaf 9, Sommers 8, Mayer 22