Carthage College’s men’s volleyball team is hoping for back-to-back Division III national championships. Photo by Carthage College.
College Report: Area alums gunning for back-to-back national titles with Carthage men’s volleyball
By Jeff Vorva
This Marist/Chicago Christian/Lyons connection could lead Carthage College to another national title.
Marist setter Gene McNulty, Chicago Christian middle hitter Zach Bulthuis and Lyons outside hitter Matt Slivinski helped lead the defending national champs to the Final Four of the NCAA Division III men’s volleyball tournament with a pair of wins over the weekend in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The Firebirds looked in championship form with a 25-22, 25-22, 25-17 victory over Dominican on April 16 in the quarterfinals, one day after beating Mount Union, 25-20, 25-15, 25-20 in the first round.
Against Mount Union, McNulty had 34 assists while Bulthuis smashed down a team-high 11 kills on a .389 hitting percentage. He added two solo blocks. Slivinski added 10 kills and six aces.
Against Dominican, McNulty had 44 assists while Bultheis had 14 kills and a whopping .765 hitting percentage. Slivinski added 11 kills and three block assists.
“A .765 in the quarterfinal against the third-ranked team in the country … it’s so absurd,” Carthage coach JW Kieckhefer said of Bulthuis’ performance.
Bulthuis said the outside hitting helped open up the middle game, and when he started having success that opened up the outside game again.
“It’s an awesome credit to everyone else on the team,” Bulthuis said. “Everyone playing to their best ability helps everyone play better. I wouldn’t have been able to hit .765 without everyone else doing their job.”
Carthage (22-3) will have home-court advantage, as it is hosting the Final Four semifinals and national championship match April 22 and 23, respectively. Carthage takes on the Wentworth Institute of Technology at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Stevens and Springfield are in the other semifinal.
The championship match is scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday.
Cougars 0-2 in nationals
The good news is that before the NAIA men’s volleyball national tournament, Saint Xavier senior setter Joe Lock was a first-team All-American pick by the National Volleyball Association/American Volleyball Coaches Association, and Marist graduate Jake McClain, a middle hitter, was named and All-American honorable mention selection.
The bad news is that the Cougars were swept in two matches at the national tournament in West Des Moines, Iowa.
The Cougars, seeded 10th in the 12-team tournament, lost the first match 25-19, 26-24, 25-21 to No. 2 Ottawa University-Arizona on April 12, despite junior middle hitter Drew Ehlers having seven kills and a .583 hitting percentage.
Saint Xavier finished the season with a 25-18, 25-23, 28-26 loss to No. 7 Park (Missouri). Shane Ooms had 11 kills for the Cougars (26-11). Grant Ooms added seven kills, all in the third game.
Park, located in Parkville, Missouri, has a roster featuring 16 out of 17 players from outside the 50 states. The Pirates have several players from Brazil, as well as players from Puerto Rico, Portugal, Italy, Israel, Serbia and Spain.
Grand View won the national title with a 3-1 victory over Benedictine-Mesa.
Smyth on fire
Sant Xavier baseball player Jimmy Smyth was named baseball Player of the Week for Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference on April 12.
During the previous week, the Evergreen Park resident hit .552 and stole 11 bases in seven games.
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