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The Carthage Firebirds Men’s Volleyball team will have a chance to defend their National Championship on their home court this week. The Firebirds used a 3-0 sweep of Dominican to punch their ticket to the Division 3 Men’s Volleyball Final Four, which they will host in their home arena starting Friday at Tarble Arena. 

“We came out on fire offensively,” Carthage head coach JW Kieckhefer said. “Give credit to our passing attack with Kyle Cohan, Matt Slivinski, Peyton Wieter, and Carter Schmidt. Gene McNulty was unreal making digs in the backcourt as he ran a perfect offense.”

Kieckhefer added that having big performances from McNulty and Cohan as well as everyone else on the roster makes them elite. 

“They keep us in our system and it makes us elite,” He added. “It’s not just one player, it is 22 across the roster coming at you.”

Carthage used three kills from Carter Schmidt and two kills from both Zach Bulthuis and David Markes to gain two-point advantages three times in set one. After Dominican tied the set at 19, the Firebirds used two more kills from Markes to regain the two-point lead before winning the set 25-22.

Bulthuis used five kills midway through set two as Carthage went on a 10-3 run to grab an 18-11 advantage. He ended the second set with eight kills as the Firebirds maintained the lead to grab a 25-22 set victory.

“We talk about defense wins and that starts from the service line,” Kieckhefer said of the runs his team made. “I thought we did a really nice job with our float serves with putting them (Dominican) out of system. We even got some aces with float serves, and when you can do that it is easy to score points.”

In the final set, Carthage jumped out to a 5-1 lead with the Firebirds scoring three of the points on attack errors including two from Dominican’s Trey Cowan. Carthage later used a 9-1 run including kills from Markes and Matt Slivinski to grab a 21-11 lead before winning the set 25-17.

Carthage had an attack percentage of .433 for the match and a set percentage of .541 as the Firebirds had a 48-36 advantage in kills in the match. Bulthuis followed up his 12-kill performance against Mount Union with 14 kills in the match, Slivinski and Schmidt both had 11 kills in the win. 

“It is definitely something I am very excited about as at the beginning of the year I was challenged with various injuries,” Bulthuis said. “Just battling the injuries and helping this team get to where we have been at is just amazing.”

Gene McNulty helped pace the Carthage offense with 44 assists, while Schmidt and Peyton Wieter both had two service aces for the Firebirds. Kyle Cohan led in digs with nine, while Slivinski had eight in the game. 

Dominican had an attack percentage of .282 and a set percentage of .374 in the loss. Trey Cowan led the way for the Stars with 13 kills, while Jack McGuire had 27 assists. 

Carthage Firebirds to take on Wentworth Leopards

Carthage will begin their title defense in the Final Four against Wentworth Institute of Technology on April 22. Tickets for the game are $10 and Carthage students will get in for free, Carthage’s game starts at approximately 7:30 p.m., and the first game between Springfield and Stevens starts at 5 p.m. 

“After we won last year, it was ecstatic knowing that we can do what we did in Virginia (last year), but do it at home with every single person we know in the area, everyone we do this for, entire school and bring that title here,” Bulthuis said of hosting the Final Four this week. “Everything we have done to this point has been absolutely incredible.”

Kieckhefer, as well as the whole entire team, also wants to use this opportunity to win one for their alumni. 

“It takes a village and to bring everyone back into this feeling, especially back for the alumni after so many heartbreak experiences for this entire program,” He added. “To win one for them last year was awesome, but to win one for them with them here is the next piece that we really want to do for them and for us.”

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