No. 18 Northwestern Upsets CLU in NCAA Regional Finals
CLU stunned 3-2 in regional championship
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Behind a capacity crowd inside the Ericksen Center, No. 18 Northwestern and host of the St. Paul, Minnesota Regional upset the No. 1 Cal Lutheran women’s volleyball team in a five set thriller, 3-2 (17-25, 25-21, 25-23, 23-25, 16-14), to win the regional championship on Saturday night.
Entering the match having won 12 straight sets, the Regals got off to a quick start once again with a 25-17 first set victory. Northwestern, however, began to feed off its large crowd and narrowly pulled out the second and third sets to put CLU on the brink. With their backs against the wall, the Violet and Gold forced a fifth set behind a 25-23 win in the fourth, but fell in heartbreaking fashion, 16-14, in the deciding set.
“I can probably only think of a couple other matches that I have ever been a part of as a coach that were that crazy,” said head coach Kellee Roesel. “I looked up in the stands in the middle of the fifth set and thought to myself, this is why we play.”
After splitting the first two sets, the match turned to a pivotal third set for the two teams. Locked at 10-10, the Regals scored six unanswered points fueled by two kills from Monica Lundgren and another from Hope Stewart. The Eagles responded with a run of their own, an 8-1 spurt, that put them ahead 18-17. Sarah Pappas added a pair of kills down the stretch as the two teams traded points, but the Eagles were able to string together four of the last five points to take the set 25-23.
In a must-win fourth set for CLU, the Regals fell behind 7-3 early but rallied to even the score at 9-9. Jamie Smith used a crafty dump shot to spark the Regals run that saw kills from Michelle Lawrence, Amanda Roberts and Stewart.
Trailing 14-15, Stewart powered down three of her seven kills in the set, all in succession to put the Regals ahead 17-15. With a 23-22 lead, Pappas tapped the ball up and over the net after a long rally for a kill and Stewart spiked one into the court to force a fifth and final set.
In the fifth, CLU took an early lead and Roberts extended it after back-to-back service aces to put the Regals ahead 9-6. Lawrence got into the mix with kills to put CLU ahead 12-9, and again to take a 13-11 lead, just two points away from victory. The Eagles, however, put together three straight points to take a 14-13 lead, but Pappas kept the Regals season alive with a kill to tie the match at 14-14. The final two plays consisted of incredible touches to keep the ball alive, but the ball bounced in favor of Northwestern to stun CLU.
Stewart had a career-night with 24 kills and 12 digs while hitting at a .382 clip after 55 total attacks. Lawrence finished with 16 kills and eight digs while the trio of Roberts, Lundgren and Pappas totaled nine kills apiece. Roberts racked up 24 digs and Nicki Tetherow paced the team on the defensive end with a game-high matching 33 digs. Smith turned in a prominent performance as well with 55 assists on 178 total sets. Both Stewart and Lawrence were named to the St. Paul, Minnesota Regional All-Tournament Team.
Northwestern (33-4) was led by Most Outstanding Player in the regional, Lindsey Peterson who carried the Eagles into the Elite Eight with an incredible 24-kill, 33-dig performance. Freya Hanson and Shanay Gonder added 14 kills apiece and Anna Gash tallied 13.
The NCAA Division III Championships will be held from Nov. 17-19 at the Kolf Sports Center in Oshkosh, Wisc.
Cal Lutheran (27-5) graduates six seniors in Lawrence, Lundgren, Tetherow, Pappas, Hannah Nua and Dianna Rohrer.
Box Score: UNW 3, CLU 2
Tournament Central: St. Paul, Minnesota Regional
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