GREENCASTLE --DePauw put together an outstanding effort to defeat Haverford, 25-22, 17-25, 25-18, 25-22, to take fifth place in its eight-team women's Volleyball Invitational on Saturday at Neal Fieldhouse.
The Tigers (7-7) regrouped quickly from a tough-to-swallow five-game loss to NCAA Division III No. 13-ranked Carthage, 17-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-9, 15-10, which ended 30 minutes before they had to play Haverford.
"We had very little time and we knew there wasn't any reason to dissect what happened at the end of that match because we all knew it was just a breakdown on our part," DePauw coach Deb Zellers said. "So, the very best thing we could do was say, 'That's over, focus on the next game.' And I'm just really proud of our team the way we did come back.
"The matches were back-to-back, two tough opponents and we were tired in the last match. It really tested us physically after playing five games in the previous match and it really tested our mental game. There have been times when we've not been strong mentally, so I'm especially proud of our team that we had what it takes when it counted against Haverford. They're a very scrappy and talented team."
DePauw scored the final three points to break out of a 22-22 tie to win the first game. The Fords (4-7), who finished 1-3 in the tournament, rebounded to win the second game. The Tigers needed to regain momentum and confidence in a third game that seemed pivotal.
"Coach (Zellers) said we needed to step back and not worry about our mistakes as much," DePauw junior middle hitter Paige Thompson said. "We were playing very individualistic and we needed to play as a team more and then our points would come. We were getting psyched out within ourselves, like 'Aw, I missed that, so now I'm going to hang my head a little bit.' We decided to come out of that. If you made a blocking error, you'd say, 'I'll get the next one,' and that's what we did."
Going into the third game, Zellers focused the Tigers on how to play against the Fords.
"Volleyball is such an emotional game and our emotions were up and down," Zellers explained. "I tried to take the emotions out of it going into game three. I tried to be really technical on this is what's open for our hitters, this is what our blockers need to do, this is what our defense needs to do, to counteract what they were doing and focus us on the actual fundamental aspects of the game and the strategy.
"To their credit, they were just fighters. They didn't give up. Our leadership was strong in that last match. In some ways, because we were so tired, we just didn't worry about things."
The Tigers closed out the third game with a 15-8 run that included 6-2 in the final points. In the fourth game, DePauw led 21-20 and scored three straight points on kills by Annie Collier and Kristen Chynoweth and a block by Abby Balbach. Haveford scored the next two points before Collier finished the match with a kill.
Madison Hoenig, a senior defensive specialist from Blacklick, Ohio, made the eight-woman all-tournament team.
"Madison Hoenig played especially strong in the last match," Zellers said. "She was phenomenal, volleying balls all over the place and her communication was constant."
DePauw was 2-2 in the tournament. The Tigers defeated Marietta, 25-15, 25-22, 25-19, and lost to Susquehanna, 21-25, 25-21, 19-25, 26-24, 15-12, on Friday.
"I really think our middle hitter play improved in this tournament and that was so key to our taking a step forward," Zellers said. "I thought Paige Thompson played particularly well. She scored on a lot of slide attacks. Ali Smith has a lot on her shoulders as our setter and she ran a good offense. Amy Collier has been leading us in kills this season and she had moments when she played very well. Our defense in general with Kylee Lehrman and Maggie Pajakowski on the back line played a strong tournament, too."
Unbeaten Washington (14-0), ranked No. 1 in Division III, won the tournament with a 25-15, 25-21, 23-17 victory over Carthage.
Juniata (11-1), the No. 2-ranked Division III team, finished third with a 26-24, 25-14, 25-16 win over Susquehanna.
Washington defeated Juniata, 27-25, 21-25, 20-25, 25-21, 18-16, in pool play.
"We had phenomenal teams here," Zellers said.
The Tigers open Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference play Saturday against Trinity and Colorado College at Sewanee.
"Our expectations were very high this season and so far we've fallen short of those expectations," Zellers said. "But give our team credit, we're not giving up. There is still a lot of improving left in this group. I feel like there's a lot of toughness in this group and we can continue to turn our season around and, hopefully, make a run at our conference championship."