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History Project: 2011 Volleyball Team Punches NCAA Tournament Ticket

History Project: 2011 Volleyball Team Punches NCAA Tournament Ticket

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Rose-Hulman Athletic History Project is designed to educate current Fightin' Engineer fans on the outstanding and unique history of Rose-Hulman and Rose Polytechnic athletics.  The Project will allow fresh content for the Rose-Hulman athletics website and social media channels during our athletic downtime caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.  We will start with one memory from each of Rose-Hulman's current 20 varsity athletic teams over the next 20 weekdays.  After the first 20 days, Rose-Hulman alumni and fans can have their memories become our daily "Rose-Hulman Athletic History Project" story by e-mailing us your story with one (appropriate for publishing) accompanying photo.

Mon. March 23 - Football (1958 season)
Tues. March 24 - Women's Soccer (2007 season)
Wed. March 25 - Baseball (1992 season)
Thurs. March 26 - Volleyball (2011 season)

The 2011 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference volleyball season was far from routine.  In a nearly mathematical impossibility, five of the 10 teams in the HCAC tied for the regular season conference championship with a 7-2 record.  Based on tiebreakers that went as far as set-score differential, Rose-Hulman received the No. 5 seed in the HCAC Tournament even though the Fightin' Engineers also received their first ever regular season conference championship plaque in the same year.  What happened next was a magical piece of Rose-Hulman athletic history.

The HCAC Tournament began with Rose-Hulman making a mid-week trip to Transylvania University for a first-round game on Tuesday Nov. 1.  The winner would advance to face No. 1 seed Hanover in Southern Indiana on Saturday.  Transylvania won the first two sets 25-20 and 25-23, and with the team playing over four hours from home on a Tuesday, the odds were stacked heavily against the Fightin' Engineers.  Led by double-figure kills from Anna Lewer (16), Morgan Williams (14) and Karah Hickman (11), Rose-Hulman would rally to win the last three sets 25-22, 25-21 and 15-10 to move on to the HCAC Tournament Semifinals.

Top-seeded Hanover would follow in Saturday's semifinal match, and the first set might have been Rose-Hulman's worst of the season.  The Panthers won the opening set 25-8 and may have gained too much confidence in those opening 20 minutes.  Rose-Hulman rallied to win three straight sets 25-19, 25-21 and 25-19 to advance to the HCAC Tournament Championship Match.  Lewer had 14 kills and 15 digs, and Leah Pelzel narrowly missed a triple-double with 22 assists, 17 digs and seven kills.  The win left Rose-Hulman one step away from its first NCAA Tourament appearance.

Bluffton had defeated Rose-Hulman in five sets earlier in the season, and the 24-7 Ohio squad was considered the favorite.  This time, the Fightin' Engineers came out strong from the beginning and left no doubt who would represent the HCAC in the NCAA Division III Tournament.  Rose-Hulman rolled to a 25-15, 25-17, 25-11 victory in a match that featured 11 blocks from a strong front line and only nine hitting errors for the match.  The NCAA Tournament featured a trip to Calvin to face a Wittenberg team that would go on to win the 2011 NCAA Division III National Championship.  Despite the loss, the memorable season was defined by the HCAC Tournament run.  One notable post-season script was the 2011-12 NCAA Division III National Sportsmanship Award for Rose-Hulman's Erika McGuire, who instituted a pregame tradition of a Zumba routine with the opposition that included a workout featuring Rose-Hulman and Bluffton players prior to the 2011 HCAC championship match.

Rose-Hulman announced its arrival as a title contender in early September with a six-match winning streak, including a memorable five-set win over DePauw at Hulbert Arena.  Lewer was named HCAC Tournament Most Valuable Player and later earned both HCAC Player of the Year and Academic All-America honors in 2012.  Hickman joined Lewer on the first-team all-league team, with Pelzel and Williams chosen second-team all-HCAC.  It would take seven more years for Rose-Hulman to return to the NCAA Division III Tournament, but the foundation of excellence that is Fightin' Engineer volleyball today built a large foundation with the memorable 2011 HCAC Tournament run.

2011 (24-9, 7-2 HCAC)
Coach: Brenda Goble
HCAC Co-Champions
HCAC Tournament Champs
NCAA Division III Tournament
Sep 1     IU-Southeast        W, 3-1
Sep 3     Carroll (n)            W, 3-1
Sep 3     Texas Dallas (n)    L, 2-3
Sep 4     DePauw (n)           L, 1-3
Sep 4     Washington U. (a) L, 0-3
Sep 7     Greenville             W, 3-0
Sep 10   Ohio Wesleyan      W, 3-0
Sep 10   Wilmington           W, 3-0
Sep 11   DePauw                W, 3-2
Sep 11   Eureka                  W, 3-0
Sep 17   Ill. Wesleyan (n)    W, 3-2
Sep 17   DePauw (a)            L, 1-3
Sep 18   Birmingham S'thrn (n) W, 3-1
Sep 18   Baldwin Wallace (n)  W, 3-2
Sep 23   Franklin                 W, 3-0
Sep 27   Anderson (a)          W, 3-0
Oct 1      Transylvania (a)     L, 0-3
Oct 1      Asbury (n)             L, 0-3
Oct 8      Hanover                W, 3-2
Oct 9      Manchester           W, 3-1
Oct 14    Ill. Wesleyan (n)    W, 3-2
Oct 14    Hope (a)               L, 0-3
Oct 15    Kalamazoo (n)       W, 3-1
Oct 15    Albion (n)              W, 3-0
Oct 19    Mt. St. Joseph       W, 3-1
Oct 22    Bluffton                 L, 2-3
Oct 26    Earlham (a)           W, 3-0
Oct 29    Defiance                W, 3-0
Oct 29    Illinois Coll.            W, 3-1
Nov 1     Transylvania # (a)  W, 3-2
Nov 5     Hanover # (a)        W, 3-1
Nov 6     Bluffton # (n)         W, 3-0
Nov 10   Wittenberg $ (n)     L, 0-3
# denotes HCAC Tournament
(a) denotes away match
(n) denotes neutral site match
$ denotes NCAA D-III Tourney