The 14th-ranked Muskingum volleyball team beat Wittenberg in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at the Grand Rapids, Michigan Regional, on Thursday afternoon, 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 25-23, 25-17). After dropping the opening set, Muskingum rallied to win the next three sets to secure its first NCAA Tournament victory since 1999.
With the win, the Muskies (27-3) advanced to the NCAA Regional Semifinals, where they will face Hope on Friday at 5:30 p.m. Muskingum defeated Hope earlier this season at the Carnegie Mellon Invitational, 3-0 (25-17, 25-21, 25-16). The Muskies lead the all-time series against the Flying Dutch, 5-2.
Leading the Muskie attack against the Tigers was the junior tandem of Brooke Fatheree and Maddie McGee. Fatheree registered a game-high 18 kills, while McGee added 13 spikes. Muskingum ended the outing with 44 kills. Junior setter Erin Dickson directed the assault with 38 assists. Juniors Jessica Cottle and Maddie Sikorski led the backline with 27 and 17 digs, respectively. Junior Brynn Guist, freshman Emma Dunham and McGee helped protect the net with a combined 15 blocks.
The Muskies warmed up after a sluggish opening set and steadily increased their hitting percentage in each frame. Muskingum logged a -0.49 in the first set, 0.38 in the second set, .164 in the third set, and wrapped up the match with a .205 in the final set. Muskingum used late surges in the second and third sets to pull away from Wittenberg and quickly opened the last set with a 14-5 surge to take control en route to the win.
Wittenberg (15-11) was paced by Katie Hiestand, who had 13 kills and by Paige Kucinic, who logged 11 spikes. Sarah Auble and Carly Carafa dished out 18 and 15 assists, respectively. Taylor Yontz led the Tiger backline with 38 digs.