College volleyball: Ridgewater wins 13A title
ROCHESTER — The Ridgewater volleyball team rallied back from a long, late-night semifinals match and earned a return ticket to the NJCAA national tournament by winning the Region 13A championship over Rochester on Saturday.
The Warriors needed to win two five-set matches over the weekend, downing Fergus Falls on Friday and the Yellowjackets in the title match.
Ridgewater defeated Rochester 25-20, 25-21, 16-25, 25-20 and 16-14.
The Warriors secured a spot in the region final with a 25-13, 25-21, 22-25, 11-25 and 16-14 victory over Fergus Falls.
“This weekend was certainly like a rollercoaster, but the resolve we showed and the strength of our character as a team was truly persevering,” said Warriors head coach Joe Sussenguth. “I’ve said from the beginning with this team that we’d endure some growing pains, but we continue to learn and improve.”
The Warriors return to the national tournament after not making the field last year.
Ridgewater won national championships in 2011, 2010, 2006 and 2002.
Seeds for the tournament field will be announced today or Tuesday.
Sussenguth said he expects the seeds to mirror the final NJCAA national poll, which had Madison College No. 1, Central Lakes at No. 2 and Ridgewater No. 3.
Four teams in the top 10 poll — Ridgewater, Madison, Northampton and Fashion Institute — have already qualified for the eight-team national tournament field.
The national tournament is Nov. 15-16 at the UCR Regional Sports Center, in Rochester.
Ridgewater (21-9) turned the tables on Rochester (26-6), which defeated the Warriors in a one-match playoff last weekend to earn the chance to host the region tournament.
The Warriors won three of five matches against Rochester this year.
On both nights, the Warriors had to rally after losing games three and four and needed to play a little overtime to win in the fifth games.
Jen Puncochar led the Warriors in kills in both matches, with 14 against Rochester and 16 against Fergus Falls.
Amy Bolin had 10 kills and Tegan VanMoer had 8.
Tiffani Karbo had 37 set assists and 11 digs against Rochester and Amy Bolin and Tracy Braaten both had a pair of block assists.
Morgan Meyer served three of the Warriors’ seven aces, with Taylor Sharpe and Karbo both serving two aces.
“My concern going (into Saturday’s match) was to see what our stamina would be like after playing until 10 p.m. the previous night in a challenging five set match,” Sussenguth said. “Similar to the (Fergus Falls) match, we started off very strong, we limited our errors and played aggressively.”
After the Yellowjackets rallied to tie the match 2-2, the Warriors worked to slow Rochesters’ quick-hitting offense, Sussenguth said.
“Our ball control was excellent and we made some great defensively plays and was able to secure a tight fifth set win,” he said.
Against Fergus Falls, the Warriors had to reestablish their offense and adjust to a resilient defensive effort by an opponent Ridgewater defeated twice this season, both times in four games.
“The combination of those two really deflated our spirit and we became very passive,” Sussenguth said. “We really had to dig deep to find ourselves as I know we didn’t expect to be in the position to play a fifth set. We trailed early but were able to make enough plays and limit our mistakes to salvage match.”
In addition to Puncochar’s 16 kills, VanMoer had 13 and Hailey Osland had 8.
Karbo had 44 set assists and Osland, Bolin and Braaten all recorded solo blocks.
Rochester (26-6) 20 21 25 25 14
Ridgewater (21-9) 25 25 16 20 16
Serving: Taylor Sharpe 2 aces, Morgan Meyer 3, Tiffani Karbo 2 … Set assists: Karbo 37 … Hitting: Jen Puncochar 56-58-14, Sharpe 4-5-1, Meyer 3-4-1, Karbo 12-12-2, Hailey Osland 29-29-5, Tegan VanMoer 32-38-8, Amy Bolin 23-26-10, Tracy Braaten 29-30-2 … Blocking (total): Bolin 2, Braaten 2 … Digs (5 or more): Puncochar 15, Sharpe 20, Karbo 11, VanMoer 10, Bolin 6
Fergus Falls 2
Fergus Falls (17-13) 13 21 25 25 14
Ridgewater (20-9) 25 25 22 11 16
Serving: Sharpe 3 aces, Meyer 2, Osland 1, VanMoer 2 … Set assists: Karbo 44 … Hitting: Puncochar 40-45-16, Meyer 13-18-5, Karbo 12-12-1, Osland 16-19-8, VanMoer 31-42-13, Bolin 5-5-2, Braaten 25-27-5 … Blocking (total): Osland 2, Bolin 1, Braaten 2 … Digs (5 or more): Sharpe 24, Karbo 13, VanMoer 19