CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A pair of wins by the 10th-seeded Catawba Valley Community College volleyball team has the program on the cusp of history.
The Red Hawks defeated Northern Virginia Community College and Lake-Sumter State College on Friday at the Charleston Civic Center to reach the ninth-place match of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) DII tournament.
CVCC (35-10) also has a chance to win three matches at the national tournament for the first time in program history.
Catawba Valley volleyball head coach Shannon Hudson said the new goal of winning three tournament matches was one brought to the table by Red Hawks Athletic Director Nick Schroeder following the team's first-round tournament loss on Thursday.
"That's been our new goal," Hudson said. "We are almost there. We get to play on Saturday, which is a huge accomplishment, especially for such a young group. I'm so proud of how they played together today."
A balanced offensive attack against the 15th-seeded NOVA Nighthawks helped propelled Catawba Valley to a 3-0 victory in the Red Hawks' first consolation match of the tournament on Friday.
Freshmen middle hitter Emma Clark drove down a team-high eight kills in the match, and teammates Meredith Patterson and Siena Naotala weren't far behind with seven kills apiece.
CVCC also received 11 digs and four aces from Madi Bolch, 14 digs from libero Emily Williams and 14 assists each from setters Emilee Webber and Macy Pope.
In the nightcap, the Red Hawks faced a second set of Hawks — this time the 11th-seeded LakeHawks of Lake-Sumter State College (Fla.).
The three-headed offensive attack of Siena Naotala, Clark and Patterson helped Catawba Valley pull ahead 7-1 in the first set against LSSC, and despite a late charge by the LakeHawks, the Red Hawks were able to win the set, 25-19.
After powering ahead early in set two and eventually holding on to win the set 25-22, the Red Hawks were in firm control of their second consolation match and one set away from advancing.
However, Lake-Sumter State (16-14) roared back, taking a commanding 14-3 lead in set three after some early mistakes by CVCC.
Despite falling behind early, the Red Hawks received a fortunate break though when a computer at the scorer's table malfunctioned, forcing a short delay that allowed CVCC's players and coaches to gather themselves.
"It gave us a chance to talk to the girls and kind of regroup," Hudson said of the break. "We didn't come back and win that (third) set, but we got really close and got the momentum that we needed going into the fourth set."
Despite going on to lose set three by a score of 25-22, Catawba Valley managed to regain some its edge during the set, which proved to be pivotal in set four.
CVCC trailed by two points for a majority of the fourth set before making a late run. Down 16-13 to the LakeHawks, the Red Hawks won 12 of the final 14 points, winning the set 25-18 to advance to Saturday's ninth-place match.
Four Red Hawks tallied double-digit kills against Lake-Sumter State, including Patterson (12), Naotala (11), Clark (10) and Sage Harrington (10).
"They are a really good team," Hudson said of the LakeHawks. "We knew which rows we needed to score on, but we just couldn't. We kept making silly errors or small mistakes — a ball off the block barely or one of their hits was barely in-bounds. We were kind of battling from one or two (points) behind the entire match, but we knew if we could just kind of get that push and get a couple of aggressive serves to get them out of system just a bit that we could get that run that we needed to kind of finish the game."
Catawba Valley faces No. 13 seed Moraine Valley (31-7) — 3-2 winners against No. 9 North Dakota State College of Science (31-4) — in Saturday's ninth-place match at 9 a.m. at the Charleston Civic Center.
This will make the third time that the Red Hawks and Cyclones have met in the NJCAA DII tournament. CVCC won 3-0 in the second round of consolation action in 2012, but Moraine Valley returned the favor in 2013 with a 3-1 victory in the first consolation round.
"We saw them play just for a little bit today," Hudson said of the Cyclones. "Moraine is a very consistent team. They don't make many errors so we are going to have to play clean tomorrow and stay aggressive, but be really careful about the errors that we're making. I think our girls can come out with a win."