Westerville, Ohio – The fourth-ranked Wittenberg women's volleyball team opened the 2018 season in familiar territory as the Tigers toppled host Otterbein, 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 25-14), on Friday night in the Rike Center. Ironically, the season-opening win came at the same site that the Tigers picked up a 3-0 win over Ohio Northern last November to earn the eighth regional championship in school history.
Who Stood Out:
The Tigers used a balanced offensive attack in the season-opening win as four different players had seven or more kills in the match, led by sophomore right-side hitter Haley Horner with 10 kills against just one error in 18 total attempts for a .500 hitting percentage. Two additional players finished the match with nine kills each, including senior middle hitter Kennedey Schmidt and freshman middle hitter Katie Hiestand, while senior setter Karen Wildemann was the main distributor in the match with 30 total assists. In addition, junior libero Taylor Yontz led the defensive effort with 12 total digs, while junior middle blocker Aubrey Cox was also a threat offensively with seven kills and a team-leading three aces.
First Set Breakdown:
The Tigers found themselves in an early 20-16 hole late in the first set, but Horner bookended a 4-0 Wittenberg run with a pair of kills to draw the match even at 20 apiece. The Tigers than went ahead, 22-21, on a kill by Hiestand, before closing out the 25-22 win with a smash Schmidt.
Second Set Breakdown:
Wittenberg again found itself in a dogfight in set two with the back-and-fourth battle culminating in a 19-19 tie late in the set. However, the Red & White closed out the second set on a 6-1 run to pick up the 25-20 set win. Schmidt again accounted for two late points down the stretch, while Cox closed out the set win with a kill of her own.
Third Set Breakdown:
Wittenberg wasted little time jumping ahead early in what would be the third and final set of the match, as the Tigers scored the first five points of the set and eventually pushed the lead out to 17-5 midway through. Schmidt once again closed out the scoring in set three with back-to-back kills to seal the 25-14 set and match win.
"The level of play tonight was exceptional. It's clear both teams have big goals and have worked hard this preseason to be in near-mid season form", said interim head coach Evelyn Carus. "I thought we played as a team, our serve receive was on point, Karen Wildemann and Megan Flaherty distributed our offense beautifully, and our hitters provided an overwhelming presence on the front lines. Kennedey Schmidt was outstanding tonight, hitting .900 on 10 attempts"
Wittenberg continues play in central Ohio tomorrow afternoon with a pair of matches, this time taking on both Washington & Lee and Washington & Jefferson at Capital University in Bexley, Ohio. The Tigers square off against W&L at 10:00 a.m., before closing out the day with a 2:00 p.m. match against W&J.