PERRYSBURG, Ohio — Southwestern’s quest for a national volleyball championship was derailed Thursday evening by a powerful team from Oakland Community College of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Fourth-ranked Oakland (36-2) vaulted into tonight’s Division II semifinals with a 25-22, 25-21, 25-14 sweep of the Spartans (35-10). Oakland meets top-ranked and 33-4 Cowley County (Kan.) in one semifinal, while second-ranked Parkland (Ill.) — the last team to beat SWCC on Oct. 12 before Oakland’s sweep Thursday — meets third-ranked Johnson County (Kan.).
Defending national champion Grand Rapids (Mich.) was defeated by Parkland in the quarterfinals.
Earlier in the day, 12th-seeded Southwestern upset fifth-seeded Illinois Central in a 26-24, 25-23, 25-21 sweep, which assured the Spartans of a finish no lower than eighth in the 16-team field.
Winning that match, after topping seventh-ranked Kirkwood for the regional title in the midst of a 14-match winning streak, was a big step for the program, Southwestern coach Melissa Blessington said.
“That was a good win for us,” Blessington said of her team’s sweep of Illinois Central. “I told the girls, in the past two weeks we’ve beaten the fifth and seventh-ranked teams, and we were not ranked. That puts things in perspective a little bit.”
It was a short turnaround of barely more than two hours after the hard-fought win over Illinois Central, with no more than four points separating any of the sets. Oakland, meanwhile, had more rest after a relatively quick 25-15, 25-19, 25-21 win over South Suburban (Ill.).
“We spent a lot of energy in that first match, even though it was three sets,” Blessington said. “Each set was very close, a lot of long rallies. They didn’t have quite as hard of a time with South Suburban. That extra 30 minutes does make a difference when there’s not much time in between.
“I thought we played really hard in those first two sets against Oakland,” she added. “In the first set we were playing really well. A couple of points here or there, we just didn’t get. Our serve receive got a little off and we were done in that third set.”
But early in the second set, there were indications Southwestern would tie it up 1-1 after taking early leads of 5-0 and 8-1 on the service of Ashley Strong and Cassidy Yong.
“We just got stuck in a rotation that doesn’t usually happen,” Blessington said.
Quickly, Oakland knotted it at 12-12 and gradually moved ahead to a 21-17 advantage. The 25-21 win put the tiring Spartans in a 2-0 hole against one of the national powers.
“We really should have had that second set,” Blessington said. “That would have put us in a much better situation.”
The other national tourney team from Region XI, DMACC, had a similar fate. The 11th-seeded Bears edged No. 6 seed Glendale, 3-2, and then fell to Johnson County in the quarterfinals, 3-1.
The two Iowa teams could be on a collision course. Central Columbus, which swept Monroe College (N.Y.) in the first round, meets Southwestern while DMACC takes on defending champ Grand Rapids in the other consolation match today.
“If we both win, or both lose our first match (today), we will meet in the placing match for fifth or seventh,” Blessington said. “Central Columbus will be a tough match. They’ve beaten Kirkwood twice. We have not played them, but I know a lot of people who have, so I’ll be getting information and probably watch their matches here (njcaa.tv archives). We’ll be ready to go. This group of girls is great. They understand how special they are.”
SWCC 3, Illinois Central 0
Set assists — Cassidy Yong 31.
Kills — Alex Duffy 9 Shelby Sullivan 8, Alyson Kocour 7.
Digs — Serena Yong 15, Molly Schimp 16, C. Yong 13, Janaya Fox 13, , Ashley Strong 11.
Serving (aces) — Schimp 11-12 (1), Sullivan 12-12 (1), C. Yong 15-15 (1).
Blocks — Fox 3, Mel Mangrum 2, Duffy 2, C. Yong 2.
Oakland (Mich.) 3, SWCC 0
Set assists — C. Yong 26, Sullivan 2, Schimp 2.
Serving (aces) — Strong 12-14 (1).
Kills — Fox 14, Sullivan 6, C. Yong 6, Duffy 4, Kocour 4.
Digs — Schimp 18, C. Yong 15, Fox 7.