The second-seeded Northwood University volleyball team saw its 2012 season come to an end thanks to a 3-2 upset victory by No. 7 seed Ashland in the opening round of the NCAA Midwest Regional Tournament Thursday afternoon (November 29).
Northwood, which had gone 2-0 against the Eagles this season prior to the contest today, finishes the season 26-7 overall. Ashland, who now advances to face sixth-seeded Hillsdale in the regional semifinals, is now 24-8.
The opening set saw the Timberwolves get off to a great start, leading 7-1 and 10-2 early. But Ashland chipped away at the lead the rest of the way, eventually taking the set 25-23. Northwood hit. 235 (15-7-35) compared to .167 (12-6-36) for the Eagles, but Ashland finished with a 4-1 edge in blocks and a 3-1 advantage in aces.
Ashland continued their momentum early in the second set, jumping out to an early 7-3 lead. Northwood trailed the rest of the way, but fought back to get within two at 17-15. But Ashland stopped the NU momentum and earned the set by the score of 25-19. AU hit .333 in the set (15-3-36) while holding Northwood to a .125 clip (10-6-25).
The third set was close early on – the two teams were tied 14-14. But Northwood took control late in the set, scoring seven of the final 10 points to cut into the Ashland lead. Neither team hit particularly well in the set – NU finished at .157 (14-6-51) while AU was at .133 (11-5-45).
In the fourth set, Northwood took the lead for good at 12-11. The rest of the set was close, but the Timberwolves maintained their lead. With NU leading 22-20, the Timberwolves scored the final three points to force a deciding fifth set. The offenses woke up a bit in the fourth – Northwood hit .286 (16-4-42), while Ashland finished at .216 (12-4-37).
Northwood led 9-7 in the fifth set, but Ashland controlled the play the rest of the match. The Eagles had six kills and a pair of aces in the final nine points to earn the win. NU had just two kills on 16 attempts in the fifth.
For the match, Northwood hit .194 (57-23-175) while Ashland finished at .190 (60-25-184). The Timberwolves also finished with a 91-77 advantage in digs and a 7-5 edge in blocks. But serving proved to be a huge part of the win for Ashland. Northwood entered the match leading the GLIAC and ranking among the NCAA leaders in aces, but Ashland finished with a 10-5 advantage in aces for the match.
Senior Tatjana Rajic (Belgrade, Serbia) led the way for Northwood, finishing with 20 kills and a .425 attack percentage. She also added three blocks. Juliia Pakhomenko (Donetsk, Ukraine) added 17 kills and 12 digs.
Northwood claimed both the GLIAC and GLIAC Tournament Championship this season.