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Firebirds Zach Bulthuis and Matt Slivinski both posted double-digit kills as the Carthage College Men’s Volleyball Team notched their first win of NCAA tournament play. Bulthuis posted 12 kills, while Slivinski had 10 kills and six service aces as the Firebirds dispatched Mount Union in three sets to open up tournament play. 

“Zach was unreal as you don’t usually see a middle lead in attack attempts and kills,” head coach JW Kieckhefer said of Bulthuis. “Really proud of how we were able to feed him the ball.”

With a 6-4 lead in the first set, Slivinski used two kills and two aces from the service line to help give the Firebirds a 10-4 first set lead. Carter Schmidt helped push the lead to seven with two kills and a service ace before Slivinski closed the set out with an ace to notch a 25-20 set victory.

Slivinski used two kills to help give Carthage a 12-7 lead in set two before a Peyton Wieter kill built the lead to eight later in the set. A David Markes kill and a Slivinski ace closed the set as the Firebirds gained a 2-0 advantage winning the second set 25-16.

Matt Slivinski Credit: Carthage Athletics

“I think we did a better job as the match went on with defending the tips, the rolls and the offspeed stuff as we struggled with that early. We were finally able to get some digs high in the air, run Slivinski on the go and get the middle blockers involved,” Kieckhefer said of the first and second set. “That turned the match for us and got us going.”

Mount Union started set three on a four-point run before Schmidt and Bulthuis both had two kills apiece to tie the set at 10. Bulthuis added three more kills the rest of the way and helped close it out with a block to help secure a 25-20 set victory to seal the match. 

Zack Bulthuis – Credit: Carthage Athletics

“We know that we are never out of a set as we have been that way ever since I have been here,” Bulthuis said of the third set. “We always know that we can come back and that we have to work as a team.”

Carthage had a .418 attack percent in the win with 79 attacks, while they outscored Mount Union 45-28 in kills. The Firebirds also had an 11-3 advantage in service aces and a 28-18 advantage in digs in the three-set sweep.

Schmidt also was a key contributor in kills with nine and led the team in total attacks with 21. Schmidt and Kyle Cohan both led in digs with six, while Gene McNulty had 34 assists in the victory.

What’s Next for the Firebirds

Carthage College advances to Elite Eight action to play Dominican on Saturday. Dominican defeated North Central in five sets and defeated the Firebirds earlier this season in five sets on Jan. 28 at Tarble Arena.

The match between Carthage and Dominican starts at 6 p.m. The winner will advance to next weekend’s Final Four that will be hosted at Carthage College’s Tarble Arena on April 22 and April 23.


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