By Tim Glon
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — No. 20-ranked Ohio Northern was eliminated by No. 18 Wisconsin-Whitewater in a tight match in the first round of the NCAA III Tournament 25-17, 25-22, 26-24 on Thursday evening at Van Noord Arena.
The fourth-seeded Warhawks (25-7 overall) advance to the second round of the tournament where they will face the winner of tonight's match between top-ranked Calvin (Mich.) and Greenville (Ill.)
The fifth-seeded Polar Bears end their Ohio Athletic Conference championship season with a 22-8 record.
Ohio Northern got nine kills from freshman Madi Ellis (Delphos/St. John's), eight kills from junior McKenna Jordan (Toledo/St. Ursula) and seven kills from junior All-American Chelsea Huppert (Bremen, Ind.) and sophomore Paige Hartings (Coldwater).
Whitewater was led by Kelley Berk with 12 kills and Erin McNeil and Ashton Doll with 10 kills each.
"I thought we played well defensively," ONU head coach Kate Witte said. "We were good on serve receive and passed the ball well. But Whitewater was big and physical at the net and that caused us a great deal of difficulty. We struggled offensively at the net. I'm proud of what our team accomplished this season. Getting to the NCAA Tournament is a great accomplishment."
In Set 1, Northern led 14-13 after a kill from Jordan, but UWW would end the set on an 12-3 run to capture the opener 25-17.
An early 6-1 run gave the Warhawks a 10-5 lead in the second set. Northern would get within 13-9 when a 5-1 run would extend the deficit to 18-10. Northern would rally to within 24-22, but would eventually fall 25-22.
Whitewater opened Set 3 on an 8-2 run, but the Polar Bears would battle back to tie the match at 12-12.
Kills by sophomore Sydney Bapst (Grove City), Hartings and Ellis gave ONU an 18-17 lead.
A kill by Hartings, an ace by senior Michaela Sharlow (Tiffin/Columbian) and a kill by Jordan extended ONU's lead to 23-19.
After two UWW points made it 23-21, a kill from Hartings put ONU up 24-21.
But Whitewater would fend off three set points by Ohio Northern and would score the final five points to win the set 26-24 and the match 3-0.
The Polar Bears hit .094 with 38 kills and 21 errors on 180 attacks, while the Warhawks hit .214 with 53 kills and 17 errors on 168 attempts.
Ohio Northern is making its 31st appearance in the 38-year history of the NCAA III Tournament and now has a 37-31 record.