After slow start, RCTC rolls into national volleyball semifinals

RCTC's Molly Kleist cheers after winning a point during the quarterfinals of NJCAA Division III national volleyball tournament on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 at Rochester Regional Sports Center. RCTC beat Harper College 3-0 to advance to the semifinals on Friday. (Traci Westcott /

Once the Rochester Community and Technical College volleyball team found its groove Thursday, the Yellowjackets had no trouble advancing to the semifinals of the Division III NJCAA National Tournament.

RCTC, playing on its home court for the 12-team event, began its quarterfinals match in a first-set 5-0 hole to Harper College. The second-seeded Yellowjackets, who placed third in the national tournament a year ago, rebounded to win the match 25-20, 25-20, 25-11.

"I just think there was a lot of unforced errors that we made," said RCTC sophomore and reigning All-American Carrie Rutledge. "I'm not really sure what was going on, we were all very calm, we weren't very nervous. Just for the future, we need to start stronger than that."

The Yellowjackets have four players back who played in last year's national tournament and five sophomores overall.

"Didn't detect any nerves, maybe more from the freshmen a little bit of nerves because they haven't been here before," RCTC coach Amber Zitzow said. "I think just getting comfortable and communicating was a big thing, and listening."


Zitzow said the Yellowjackets might have been a bit rusty. The team had not played in a week and a half.

"We just had to get into a flow," Zitzow said.

Harper College (25-21) had played one match earlier in the day to reach the quarterfinals while RCTC had a first-round bye. The Yellowjackets never were able to obtain a big lead in either of the first two sets.

"I feel like it took us a set and a half just to wake up," Zitzow said. "And then it was 'OK we got this.' It took us a while, though." 

The Yellowjackets were never in a big hole either, after that early 5-0 deficit. Rutledge and sophomore Hayley Dessner were big factors at the net. Rutledge had 23 kills in the three sets and Dessner added 11.

"I think we all started trusting each other more," Dessner said.

With the score tied 4-4 in the third set, Rutledge had three straight kills. The Yellowjackets then started to pull away.

Setter Brekkin McCready finished with 36 set assists for RCTC, while Kate Bade had 14 digs.


"I think our first-ball contact was really good in the third set and we just really connected, setter, hitter, passer. We all flowed really well, and I think our communication was a lot better in the third set," Rutledge said. "As it progressed, we got better and started talking more."

The win moved the Yellowjackets to the national semifinals at 7 p.m. on Friday against No. 3 seed Columbus State (27-9). Owens (41-4), the No. 1 seed and the defending national champions, also won in the quarterfinals. It is on the other side of the bracket and will play in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Friday.

"None of us were nervous about it, but it feels nice, like a weight lifted off our shoulders to get that first game done," Rutledge said. "Now we're just looking forward to having some fun."

RCTC 3, Harper 0



Harper:Kayla Agoranos 20 digs; Taylor Pfaller 18 assists, 8 digs; Rugile Jaciunas 5 kills; Rachel Kandefer 5 kills; Amelia Reiter 9 kills.

RCTC:Brekkin McCready 36 assists, 9 digs; Carrie Rutledge 23 kills, 8 digs; Kate Bade 14 digs; AnnMarie Jalmasco 3 kills; Hayley Dessner 11 kills, 10 digs; Jessica Storm 5 digs. 


RCTC's Hayley Dessner hits the ball against Harper College during the NJCAA Division III national volleyball tournament quarterfinals on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 at Rochester Regional Sports Center. RCTC won 3-0 to advance to the semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday. (Traci Westcott /

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