By Tim Glon
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — No. 10-ranked Ohio Northern saw its volleyball season and the era of head coach Kate Witte come to an end with a spirited 12-25, 27-25, 25-19, 25-15 loss at No. 3 Calvin (Mich.) in the second round of the NCAA Division III Tournament on Friday evening at the Van Noord Arena.
The Polar Bears finish their campaign with a 27-6 overall record, while the Knights (26-2) advance to the Regional finals on Saturday night against No. 10-ranked Hope (Mich.), who edged No. 14 Muskingum in five sets in the day's first match.
Witte ends her 29-year career as Ohio Northern's all-time career leader in victories with a 742-241 record, a winning percentage of .755.
"It is difficult, knowing that tonight is my final match," an emotional ONU head coach Kate Witte said. "I am very proud of this team and my five seniors, for getting back to the NCAA Tournament four consecutive years and ending things on a high note.
"I think we ran out of gas emotionally at the end of the match," Witte said. "We had a great game plan and the first set was probably the best volleyball we played all year. We fought very hard, but Calvin is such an exceptional team."
Senior Sydney Bapst (Grove City) added eight kills, freshman Madison Kern (Loveland/Mount Notre Dame) had seven kills and four blocks, junior Katie Wade (Battle Creek, Mich./Harper Creek) had 28 assists and senior McKenna Hostetler (Plain City/Alder) had 26 digs for Ohio Northern.
Hostelet was named to the Grand Rapids Regional All-Tournament Team.
Calvin was led by Kelsey Smith with 18 kills and Sarah DeVries with 15 kills.
In the opening set, ONU used an 8-1 run to grab an early 14-5 lead. The advantage grew to 20-8 and 24-11 before Northern would win 25-12, hitting a blistering .393 in the process.
"We were gelling as a team in the first set," Huppert said. "Our back row was all over getting ups, Katie (Wade) was feeding us and we were very balanced. It was a great start."
Set 2 saw the Polar Bears take a quick 6-1 lead only to see the Knights rally to tie the set at 7-7. CU would take a 24-22 lead, but a kill by Jordan would tie it at 24-all. But the hosts would score the final two points to win 27-25 and even the match at 1-set each.
Neither team led by more than two points at any point in set three until the Knights broke an 18-all tie by scoring seven of the last eight points to win 25-19.
Keyed by a pair of kills by Kern, ONU took a quick 3-0 lead in Set 4. CU would battle back to tie it at 10-all, then go on a 7-1 run to take a 17-11 lead it would not relinquish.
"We played well defensively and had a good plan," Hostetler said. "We left it all on the floor and have no regrets. We gave it everything we had."
Ohio Northern hit .136 with 43 kills and 22 errors on 154 attempts, while Calvin hit .183 with 54 kills and 24 errors on 164 attempts.
"The past four years have been awesome," senior defensive specialist Kristin Langston (Versailles) said. "Our team has become a family. I couldn't have asked for a better experience."
The Polar Bears are making their 32nd appearance in the NCAA III Tournament and have a 38-31 record in tournament play, including a trip to the NCAA Semifinals in 2008 and a Runner-Up finish in 1989.