RCTC drops heartbreaker in national semifinals
This year losing in the national semifinals was even more disappointing for the Rochester Community and Technical College volleyball team.
The Yellowjackets saw their dreams of winning a Division III national championship end in the semifinals for the second straight season on Friday as the second-seeded Yellowjackets suffered a narrow 3-2 loss to No. 3 Columbus State at Rochester Regional Sports Center.
"It's very hard, but I'm very proud of how we played," RCTC coach Amber Zitzow said. "We played with heart, we did not give up; it's just a really tough loss."
Columbus State rallied for a 11-25, 25-21, 20-25-20, 25-19, 15-11 victory.
"Yeah, I think it's more frustrating this year because I know how badly we worked for this and how badly we wanted it," RCTC sophomore outside hitter Carrie Rutledge said.
RCTC entered as the No. 2 seed in the tournament and ranked second in the nation. Columbus State (28-9) is the No. 3 seed.
"I'd say this is more frustrating," RCTC sophomore setter Brekkin McCready said. "Just because two vs. three (seed), we just wanted to pull off a big win. We had a bunch of fans there supporting (us)."
The way the match started, it looked like the Yellowjackets were headed for victory.
"They first set was very easy for us, we were passing the ball really, really well. As the game went on, our first ball contact wasn't (going) as well," Zitzkow said. "We got too predictable at times. We needed to stay aggressive, but it was a battle out there."
"We wanted this game badly and we came out hard in that first set and proved how badly we wanted it," Rutledge said. "And I think the rest of the sets they realized how hard we were coming and they needed to step up. They played a great game, too. They left it all on the court."
Columbus State definitely picked up its play after the first set. Especially sophomore Bobby Diamond. The Cougars used the 5-foot-11 Diamond in a hitting roll all over the court and she finished with a match-high 28 kills.
"She was killing us in the back row, too," Zitzow said. "She performed well."
"We were just trying to shut her down, and I think we did a good job of that throughout the game," McCready said.
RCTC won the third set to go up 2-1 and then took a 7-4 lead in the fourth set. But Columbus State's strong play at the net helped the Cougars go on a 16-7 run at one point as they forced the deciding fifth set.
It was RCTC's 34th match of the season, and the first one that went to five sets.
"In the fifth set, it's a race to eight," Zitzow said of the momentum. "For a while we had too many errors."
The Cougars surged to a quick 8-4 lead in the fifth set, and RCTC never got closer than 11-9 the rest of the way.
"We left it all on the court, that's all I could ask of the team, too," Rutledge said. "They all wanted it as badly as any of us sophomores wanted it."
Rutledge had 23 kills for the second straight match at the national tournament. Sophomore Hayley Dessner added 13 kills while McCready had 41 set assists and sophomore Kate Bade had 19 digs.
"I think we were both competing good," McCready said. "Both Columbus and us played our hearts out."
"We fought," Zitzow said. "It's not like we rolled over and died. We fought really, really hard."
The Yellowjackets (31-3) will play in the third-place match against No. 4 Brookhaven at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Columbus State faces top-seeded Owens (42-4) in the national championship match at 6 p.m. Both teams are from Ohio.
Columbus State 3, RCTC 2
Columbus State:Bobby Diamond 28 kills; 11 digs; Audrey Jenkins 5 kills, 36 assists, 22 digs; Tate Rybarczyk 32 digs; Tiziana Russell 6 kills.
RCTC:Brekkin McCready 2 kills, 41 assists, 13 digs; Carrie Rutledge 23 kills, 17 digs; Kate Bade 19 digs; AnnMarie Jalmasco 2 kills; Hayley Dessner 13 kills, 15 digs; Jessica Storm 15 digs; Olivia Fredin 3 kills; Molly Kleist 6 kills.