Road To The Championship: Volleyball Wins NCAA Division III Title
When the final ball hit the floor, it was felt coast to coast
When the final ball hit the floor in Wittenberg's 3-0 NCAA Division III Tournament championship victory over Christopher Newport, there was a release of energy from the Red & White clad horde behind the Tigers' bench that could be felt from coast to coast. Tiger fans everywhere joined in the celebration of Wittenberg's first NCAA Championship in 34 years as the 2011 Tiger volleyball team took its place alongside the football teams in 1973 and 1975 and the men's basketball teams in 1961 and 1977 — in addition to three football poll titles claimed in 1962, 1964 and 1969.
The Tigers lost just one set in six matches en route to one of the most dominating NCAA Division III Tournament titles in history. Wittenberg was the second straight Great Lakes Region representative to win the national title and the first Ohio school to win an NCAA women's volleyball championship — regardless of division. After a prolonged celebration, senior right-side hitter Christine Simpson, junior libero Christina Gilene and senior outside hitter Kimmie Dyer were awarded spots on the all-tournament team, with Dyer adding Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors.
- Championship Match Story/Interviews/Photo Gallery
- Full Championship Match Video Broadcast Archive
- Tournament Website
- Wittenberg Audio Archives
- Wittenberg Athletics Facebook Fan Page
- Wittenberg Athletics Twitter Account
Video Courtesy of Washington University/NCAA
But the championship was more than just one match
Starting The Journey
The road to the championship match has been a three-week whirlwind, starting with a sweep of North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) rivals Wooster and Hiram to win the NCAC Tournament and advance to the 16th straight NCAA Division III Tournament in program history. It was NCAC Tournament title No. 5 in a row and No. 17 since joining the league in 1989, coming on the heels of a perfect 16-0 NCAC regular season record that earned the Tigers their sixth straight crown and 17th all-time.
- NCAC Tournament Semifinals Match Story/Video Re-Cap/Photo Gallery
- NCAC Tournament Championship Match Story/Video Re-Cap/Photo Gallery
Next up was a loaded regional tournament hosted by defending national champion Calvin, which had knocked the Tigers out of the national tournament in 2009 and 2010. The Knights entered the 2011 NCAA Division III Tournament ranked No. 1 and unbeaten, including a 3-2 heartstopper over Wittenberg on Sept. 16 in Springfield.
The Tigers were more than up to the task, avenging a disappointing loss to Calvin on the Tigers' home floor one year earlier in the regional final after kicking off 2011 national tournament action with sweeps of Rose-Hulman and 13th-ranked Heidelberg. Along the way, Wittenberg lost just one of 10 sets, establishing itself as one of the hottest teams in the postseason competition.
- NCAA Regional Quarterfinals vs. Rose-Hulman Match Story
- NCAA Regional Semifinals vs. Heidelberg Match Story
- NCAA Regional Championship vs. Calvin Match Story
Meet Us In St. Louis
Later that day, the American Volleyball Coaches Association and the NCAA hosted the annual banquet, where All-America awards were distributed (including a trio of Tigers) and two team members from each of the eight participating squads were asked to speak. Tiger seniors Kimmie Dyer and Hannah Riley represented their teammates, coaches and university community beautifully, speaking succinctly but eloquently about the meaning of teamwork and the sense of perspective this team has in light of illnesses suffered by a pair of teammates.
- Community Service Project News Release
- NCAA Banquet News Release
- NCAA Feature: The Tigers' Biggest Fan
There were matches to be played in St. Louis, too. Once again, the Tigers have been up to the task.
First up was 17th-ranked California Lutheran, but the Tigers committed just two attacking errors in a nearly flawless national quarterfinal performance on Friday, Nov. 18. Wittenberg reached the fourth NCAA Division III Tournament semifinal match in program history with a dominating 3-0 win over the Regals.
The next night, it was more of the same for the Tigers. Forced to take a few more swings thanks to a scrappy, hustling defensive effort by fourth-ranked Eastern, Wittenberg still picked up a 3-0 win — its 32nd sweep of the 2011 season — over the Eagles to reach the first NCAA Division III Tournament title match in program history.
- California Lutheran Match Story/Post-Match Interviews/Photo Gallery
- NCAA Game Story (with video)
- NCAA Feature Story: Tigers Near-Perfect In Victory
- Eastern Match Story/Post-Match Interviews/Photo Gallery
- NCAA Feature Story: Kimmie Dyer Earns Tournament Most Outstanding Player
This was an inspired performance
Coach Labrador described the team's run to the 2011 NCAA Division III Championship a "community effort," urging the entire Wittenberg community to take pride in the victory and to know that the support of all the Tiger fans had made it possible. The team's strongest motivations came from two particular sources.
While the team drew much of their motivation from that faithful community, the Tigers were especially inspired by a cancer-stricken teammate, who was the subject of a feature story in the 2011 NCAA Fall Championships feature show, which aired on Christmas Day (left).
One thing the Tigers could always count on was a noisy gym. Wittenberg fans filled the stands in St. Louis (pictured above) and packed Founders Pub on campus in Springfield to watch the live video and cheer the Tigers on (right).
Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photos By: Erin Pence '04