ROCHESTER -- Even before playing a single match in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III volleyball tournament Friday, the Central Lakes College Raiders had one particular match circled.
It would be the day's last match against the nation's second-ranked Division III team, the College of DuPage Chaparrals.
This would be a measuring stick kind of match to see if your team has the right mettle. It would be the kind of showdown teams with championship aspirations long for.
After making quick work of the Fashion Institute of Technology and Lehigh Carbon College in three straight games each, third-ranked CLC got the showdown it wanted.
The Chaparrals took the opening game 30-26 in a closely fought battle. That loss only seemed to awaken a sleeping giant as CLC won the final two games in dominating fashion, 30-20 and 30-24.
CLC players displayed team unity between games against Fashion Institute of Technology Friday in Rochester.
The win over DuPage gave the Raiders an 8-1 record in pool play and one of two No. 1 seeds for Saturday's championship round. They faced off against fellow MCCC rival Fergus Falls in the semifinals.
"The DuPage match is the one we were really looking forward to," Raiders coach Jane Peterson said. "It's hard to adjust to a more powerful, ball control team. But we made that adjustment right away.
"I thought we played very confidently. We were good (Friday night) and that was one of the best matches we played. We put it all together."
In the first game the Chaparrals did something the previous two teams couldn't: Slow down Raiders middle hitter Lane tenCate, limiting her to only four kills in the first game.
That success was short-lived. TenCate dominated the net in game two with seven kills. During a five-point run that gave CLC a 27-19 lead, tenCate scored three of those points on kills. In the third game, during a critical four-point run that gave the Raiders some breathing room at 21-17, tenCate scored half of those points on kills.
Raider sophomore Kristin Olson prepared for a hit against Fashion Institue of Technology Friday in Rochester. (Photos by Elizabeth Nida, Rochester Post-Bulletin)
TenCate dominated the entire day, registering 53 kills in nine games for a 5.88 average per game.
The Raider who played the biggest part in beating DuPage was sophomore Kristin Olson. The outside hitter didn't overpower them with her kills, in which she had eight. But it was her five ace serves that did in the Chaparrals.
Olson, who normally gets replaced by Dana tenCate when her turn to serve comes up, stayed in on a hunch by Peterson.
"Kristin usually just plays across the front and comes out," said Peterson. "But I just sensed a little something from Kristin, that she was into this game. I know she has a good topspin serve. She hasn't served in a long time, about a month. It was just the right feeling."
The Raiders were also able to disrupt Jessica Liptak, DuPage's best hitter. Averaging close to five kills a game, the 5-foot-10 outside hitter was a non-factor as she was held to only seven kills in the entire match.
NJCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament
Friday: The Raiders won 8 of 9 games to claim a No. 1 seed in the championship round.
Saturday: Semifinals vs. Fergus Falls, 11 a.m.
Much of that had to do with CLC's blocking, led by Shannon McCarthy's team-high five blocks. Once Liptak was blocked, she started to try other things. When those things didn't work, frustration set in, which is exactly what Peterson wants.
"Hitters at this level, if you can block them a couple of times, they get all mental and try something else," Peterson said. "The first time (Liptak) dumped it over we picked it up. The first time she tried to tip it we picked it up. If you can do that the first time, then that made her start to wonder what to try next."
The Chaparrals were constantly wondering where the next Raiders attack would come from. Would it come from Lane tenCate or McCarthy in the middle? Or from Olson and Jenny Skiba on the outside?
As Peterson pointed out, the most balanced team will be the one holding the hardware at the end of the tournament.
"The team that wins this tournament will be the best all-around team," said Peterson. "I thought (DuPage) was a perfect example of a good team that does some things really well but isn't as well balanced. Everyone had major contributions for us."
NJCAA Division III pool play results
Central Lakes def. Fashion Institute of Technology 30-21, 30-26, 30-26
Central Lakes def. Lehigh Carbon Community College 30-16, 30-21, 30-24
Central Lakes def. College of DuPage 26-30, 30-20, 30-24
Raiders statistics 3 matches
Abby Leach 6 kills, 114 set assists, 21 digs, 3 blocks
Jodie Solinger 19 digs
Tracy Bell 1 set assist, 8 aces, 17 digs
Shannon McCarthy 28 kills, 4 aces, 9 blocks
Lane tenCate 53 kills, 3 aces, 21 digs, 5 blocks
Aubrie Anderson 7 kills, 3, set assists, 2 digs, 5 blocks
Dana tenCate 1 ace, 13 digs
Kristin Olson 20 kills, 5 aces, 7 digs, 5 blocks
Kelly Holmgren 7 aces, 11 digs
Jenny Skiba 23 kills, 5 aces, 7 digs, 3 blocks
Overall -- CLC 28-8. Next match -- CLC vs. Fergus Falls, NJCAA semifinals, Rochester, 11 a.m. today.
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