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The Carthage College Firebirds’ men’s volleyball team will be hosting this weekend’s NCAA tournament action at Tarble Arena. The team earned an overall number one seed after earning the CCIW tournament title on Saturday with a 3-1 win over conference rival North Central.

Slivinski and Schmidt lead Firebirds past Cardinals

Leadership helped lead the Firebirds to the conference tournament title in the win over North Central. Matt Slivinski posted a staggering 25 kills, while Carter Schmidt posted 14 as Carthage rattled off three straight wins en route to the win.

“So incredibly proud of our bench in this game, Easton Gavin made some awesome service runs and Daniel Dyner really changed the match with his blocking ability,” head coach JW Kieckhefer said. “It just shows how impressive our team is from one to 22.”

In the first set, North Central jumped out to an 8-3 lead including four kills from Jared Moser to get the early advantage. Carthage used four kills from Slivinski to help tie the match at 17 as both teams kept it close before the Cardinals grabbed a 25-23 first set win.

“I just told the guys that we don’t blink and we don’t change. Carthage College volleyball wins as long as you believe in it.”

JW Kieckhefer

Carthage trailed 21-17 in set two before the Firebirds used two kills from Slivinski and a kill and an ace from Schmidt to tie the set at 21. The Firebirds scored four of the last six points of the set including two blocks from David Markes to secure a 25-23 set victory to tie the match.

“That shows the experience of this group as we have five guys from the National Championship back,” Kieckhefer said. “I just told the guys that we don’t blink and we don’t change. Carthage College volleyball wins as long as you believe in it, and thank God they believed, trusted each other, and went on that run.”

Both teams played neck-and-neck in set three before Slivinski added three more kills to help the Firebirds grab a 23-18 lead before ending the set on another kill to grab set three 25-21. Carthage used two separate four-point runs including kills from Schmidt, Markes, Slivinski and Zach Bulthuis to grab an 18-10 advantage en route to a 25-17 fourth set victory. 

Carthage Firebirds Men's Volleyball
The 2022 CCIW Conference Tournament Champions: Carthage Men’s Volleyball team – Credit: Daniel Schoettler

“We just reminded ourselves to play our side and to not listen to their side with all their cheering and all the energy they (North Central) bring,” Slivinski added of the runs that helped lead them to victory. “It is about our side, and that really helped us focus in and take the third and fourth set.”

Gene McNulty led the Firebirds in assists with 48, while Schmidt had the two service aces in the match for Carthage. Kyle Cohan led in digs with 17, while Markes and Slivinski both had four blocks in the win. 

What’s Next?

Carthage will be the number one seed in their pod in the NCAA Tournament as they will take on Mount Union at 4 p.m. on Friday, while North Central will take on Dominican at around 6:30 p.m. with each match being played at Tarble Arena. The winners of both matches will play at 6 p.m. for the rights to go to the Final Four next weekend. 

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