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College volleyball: Warriors advance to title match in national tourney

ROCHESTER — The Ridgewater College Warriors are hungry. After missing out qualifying for the NJCAA Division III National Tournament last year, they will be playing for the program’s third title in the last four years Saturday afternoon.

No. 3-ranked Ridgewater breezed past No. 6 Montgomery College of Rockville, Md., 25-9, 25-17, 25-12 in the quarterfinals Friday before outlasting No. 2-ranked and MCAC rival Central Lakes 23-25, 26-24, 23-25, 25-22, 15-10 in the semifinals.

The fourth straight win moves Ridgewater (23-9) into the national title match where it will meet top-ranked Madison, Wis., (33-3) at 2:30 p.m. inside the University Center Rochester Sports Center.

Freshman Jen Puncochar supplied 15 kills in each match and freshman Tegan VanMoer followed with 26, including 18 in the semifinals, to pace the Ridgewater offense. Sophomore Tiffani Karbo set the tone for the attackers with 75 assists, while sophomore Taylor Sharpe supplied 22 digs and freshman Tracy Braaten 10 ace blocks, 8 alone in the semifinals.

The entire Ridgewater roster appeared on the stat sheet in its opener Friday.

“More than anything we were coming out and establishing confidence, especially down here (national tournament) and with the first-year players,” said Ridgewater coach Joe Sussenguth when asked if the Montgomery win set up anything for the Central Lakes match. “We were able to control the floor offensively and defensively.”

The confidence level reached new heights for the Warriors against Central Lakes as the teams traded games before Ridgewater took control early in the fifth game and never relinquished the lead.

“I asked the kids to establish ball control because Central Lakes is probably the best serving team in the nation,” said Sussenguth. “We had to make a renewed commitment on a point-by-point on serve receive and you could see (Central Lakes) eventually make some frustration errors.

“I don’t know how they do it, but the girls keep finding a way to keep their composure and play aggressively at the same time. That’s hard to do.”

The marathon win over Central Lakes (26-3) avenged two losses earlier in the season to the Raiders. Central Lakes beat Ridgewater 25-23, 25-18, 25-18 on Aug. 23 in Willmar and 21-25, 25-13, 25-17, 25-16 on Sept. 14 in Willmar.

The Warriors won back-to-back national titles in 2010 and 2011 after winning their first title in 2006, Sussenguth’s first year at the helm as head coach.

“Madison has a lot of balance on the floor and they do bring a lot of firepower on offense,” added Sussenguth. “Hopefully we can still do the little things that got us here. No question we have to come ready to play, but the kids have proven before that they can step up to the plate.”

Ridgewater College 3, Montgomery College 0

Montgomery (17-14)         9 17 12

Ridgewater (22-9)             25 25 25

(Key: good-attempts-aces)


Statistics not available


Serving: Jen Puncochar 10-11-2, Aleza Kirschenmann 3-3-0, Catie Sherman 1-1-0, Alix Katz 2-2-0, Taylor Sharpe 9-10-0, Morgan Meyer 10-11-1, Tiffani Karbo 16-16-0, Hailey Osland 6-6-1, Tegan VanMoer 10-10-1, Catie Kluver 1-1-0, Mikayla Jacobson 3-3-0 … Set assists: Karbo 30 … Hitting: Puncochar 26-32-15, Katz 6-6-1, Meyer 5-6-0, Karbo 7-7-3, Osland 2-2-1, VanMoer 14-14-8, Amy Bolin 7-7-3, Tracy Braaten 11-12-5 … Blocking (aces): Puncochar 1, Karbo 1, Osland 1, VanMoer 2, Bolin 1, Braaten 2 … Digs: Puncochar 8, Sharpe 10, Meyer 5, Karbo 7

Ridgewater 3, Central Lakes 2

Ridgewater (23-9)             23 26 23 25 15

Central Lakes (26-3)        25 24 25 22 10

(Key: good-attempts-aces)


Serving: Puncochar 13-15-1, Sharpe 17-18-0, Meyer 10-16-0, Karbo 25-25-2, Osland 17-19-2, VanMoer 15-16-1 … Set assists: Karbo 45 … Hitting: Puncochar 47-49-15, Sharpe 6-8-0, Meyer 5-5-2, Karbo 11-12-4, Osland 12-14-5, VanMoer 36-40-18, Bolin 17-18-6, Braaten 17-19-2 … Blocking (aces): Meyer 1, Karbo 3, VanMoer 9, Bolin 1, Braaten 8 … Digs: Puncochar 7, Sharpe 12, Meyer 9, Karbo 9, Osland 6, VanMoer 9, Bolin 3

Central Lakes

Statistics not available

Jesse Fuchs
I have been with the Tribune since the summer of 1998. I enjoy covering the high school aspect of the business and designing pages.
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