Carthage Sweeps Elmhurst at the NCAA Regional Semifinals

Carthage 3, Elmhurst 0
Washington (Mo.) 3, Chicago 0

The Carthage College women's volleyball team (32-6, 7-0 College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin), ranked ninth in the Nov. 8 American Volleyball Coaches Association NCAA Division III poll, advanced to the regional finals of the NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Championship on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 12 with a 3-0 sweep of CCIW-member and No. 16 Elmhurst College (31-6) in the Saturday, Nov. 12 semifinals at the Washington University Field House in St. Louis, Mo.  The Lady Reds' winning set scores over the Bluejays were 25-20, 25-19 and 27-25.  Carthage opened regional play on Friday, Nov. 11 with a 3-0 sweep of Edgewood College (21-14) with winning scores of 25-13, 25-12 and 25-16. 
 
Also on Carthage's side of the regional quarterfinals bracket, Elmhurst (31-5) outlasted Cornell College (28-6), 3-2, in Friday's opening match.  The Bluejays' winning set scores over the Rams were 25-17, 20-25, 18-25, 25-21 and 15-10.   In the third quarterfinal match, No. 15 the University of Chicago (30-5) defeated No. 21 Wisconsin-Whitewater (26-8), 3-1, with winning scores of 25-22, 23-25, 25-14 and 25-16.  No. 2 Washington (Mo., 33-1) swept Webster University (19-13), 3-0, in the final quarterfinal match, with winning scores of 25-17, 25-9 and 25-17.  Washington (Mo., 34-1) swept Chicago (30-6), 3-0, in Saturday's second semifinal with winning set scores of 25-17, 25-22 and 25-16.  Carthage (32-6) will play Washington (Mo., 34-1) for the regional title at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13.
 
This was the fourth meeting this year between the Lady Reds and the Bluejays.  Carthage won a regular-season CCIW match at Elmhurst, 3-1, on Sept. 27; lost a 3-2 contest on Oct. 8 at the Wisconsin-Platteville Tournament; and won a 3-2 match on Nov. 5 at Tarble Arena to win the CCIW Women's Volleyball Tournament. 
 
Carthage pulled away to an 18-11 lead in the first set.  Elmhurst pulled to within two, 22-20,  but the Lady Reds ran off the final three points for a 25-20 decision.  Carthage fell behind, 10-6, in the second set before taking a 17-16 lead  The Lady Reds took eight of the last 11 points to win, 25-19.  The Bluejays pulled away to a 20-14 lead in set three, but Carthage tied the set at 23 all.  Following ties of 24-24 and 25-25, the Lady Reds took the final two points for the 27-25 win and a sweep of the Bluejays. 
 
“We were down in sets two and three and came back to win, and that was great,” said Carthage coach Leanne Ulmer.  “When we got down, I told our girls we just needed to control the passing.  We seemed to take our foot off the pedal for a few minutes, and I wanted to make sure we were playing aggressively.  I say what I say, and this team just responds.  This group is so experience, and we've played such a tough schedule, we've been in those kinds of spots before.”
 
Michelle Madeja (Sr., Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) led Carthage with 12 kills and a .200 attack percentage.  Dani Steffa (Sr., Oregon, Ill.) had 10 kills with a .389 attack percentage, and Lauren Dembkowski (Sr., Mount Prospect, Ill./Arlington Heights-Hersey) added 10 kills.  Setter Drewann Pancratz (Sr., Schaumburg, Ill.) averaged 8.00 assists per set.  Antoney Veasy Smith led the Bluejays with 16 kills, while hitting .351.  “Dani Steffa was awesome,” said Ulmer.  “She and Jordan Burkholder are kind of our aces in the hole.  Both have the ability to be game-changes, and tonight, Dani was just that.”
 
“We played a tremendous match,” said Ulmer, “and I'm so happy for my girls.  To beat Elmhurst in three sets, or to beat anyone in an NCAA regional semifinal in three seats is a big deal.  We're playing great right now, as well as we've played all year.  Washington University, if that's who we're playing tomorrow, is obviously a great team.  We just have to beat them once.  We're excited about this chance.  I think we'll play well, but we're going to have to be at our best.”
 
This is Carthage's eighth NCAA appearances and seventh in a row.  The Lady Reds qualified for the regional championship in 1990 and again from 2005 to 2010.  After bowing out in the quarterfinals in both 2005 and 2006, the 2007, 2008 and 2009 squads reached the regional-championship match.  The 2007 team lost to Washington University (Mo.), 3-1, at the Carthage Physical Education Center.  The 2008 team fell to Wisconsin-Oshkosh, 3-2, at the Kolf Sports Center in Oshkosh, Wis., and the 2009 squad lost to Washington University (Mo.), 3-0, in St. Louis, Mo.  The 2010 squad lost in the regional semifinals at Tarble Arena in Kenosha, Wis.

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