Volleyball finishes fourth at nationals; Rutter receives tournament honors

Volleyball finishes fourth at nationals; Rutter receives tournament honors

ROCHESTER, Minnesota – The Columbus State volleyball team closed out the 2017 season with a 19-12 record and a final four appearance, in addition to capturing Region XII and District G titles.

After defeating No. 5 St. Cloud Technical & Community College (St. Cloud, Minnesota), the No. 4 seeded Columbus State saw its journey toward a national championship come to an end as No. 1 Harper College (Palatine, Illinois) defeated them in four sets on Friday night. The loss sent Columbus State into a battle for a third place national finish, where they faced No. 3 Central Lakes Community College (Brainerd, Minnesota). Columbus State lost in five sets against the Tigers, concluding the season with a fourth place national finish.

Columbus State started strong in the match against St. Cloud, winning the first two sets. However, the Cyclones snagged the third set, upping the ante on their offense and capitalizing on Columbus State errors. In the fourth and final set, the Cougars halted St. Cloud's offense to win the match and advance into the championship bracket. Final set scores were 25-19, 25-16, 20-25, 25-22.

Afterward, the Cougars faced off with the 2016 national champions, Harper College, in the championship semifinal match. Columbus State started slowly, battling for points with the Hawks who took the first two sets. The Cougars picked up the third set with a stronger, more balanced attack. It looked like the Cougars were going to win the fourth set until a series of Columbus State errors along with Harper's steady offense came into play. Final set scores were 25-20, 25-19, 18-25, 25-23.

The win put the Cougars in their final match to fight for a fourth place finish against Central Lakes on Saturday. Despite strong performances in the second and third sets, the Cougars dropped the five-set battle to the Tigers with scores of 17-25, 25-16, 25-23, 22-25, 10-15.

The championship match featured No. 1 Harper College and No. 2 Eastfield Community College. Eastfield upset Harper to win their first national championship.

Sophomore outside hitter Allyse Rutter received All-Tournament honors at the conclusion of the championship match.

The final four appearance at the NJCAA DIII National Championship was the highest finish since 2004 when then-head coach Scott Nichols also led the Cougars to a fourth place overall finish. This was the second national appearance for the Cougars under current third-year head coach Jill Yocum.