MOUNT VERNON – The road to the NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament will go through Mount Vernon once again.
Carroll provided a test Saturday, but nothing to sidetrack the Rams on their way to a second straight Midwest Conference regular-season championship.
The 22nd-ranked Rams rallied late in the first two sets and then poured it on in the third to take a title-clinching 25-23, 25-23, 25-15 victory over the Pioneers in the Small Multi-Sport Center.
Cornell (23-3 overall) bumped its spotless conference mark to 9-0 with one league match remaining Wednesday at Grinnell. The Rams, winners of 21 of their last 22 matches, secured home court and the No. 1 seed in the four-team MWC Tournament Nov. 8-9. The tournament champion earns the league's automatic berth to nationals.
Coach Jeff Meeker's club claimed the fourth MWC championship in program history, which includes titles in 2012, 1988 and 1983.
The Rams are now 19-0 in MWC regular-season matches since rejoining the conference last season. Carroll (17-11, 7-2 MWC) is the only team to take a set from Cornell during that span, and the Pioneers came ready to play in this one.
Carroll built a 22-18 lead in the opening set, but the Rams charged back behind five straight service points by freshman Molly Neiley. A Neiley ace and Kathleen O'Connor kill tied it at 22-22. The Rams then closed it with a double block and two Pioneer errors.
The Pioneers grabbed an early 14-7 lead in the second set, and were on the verge of closing it out at 23-21. But the Rams ran off four unanswered points – including a go-ahead kill by Taylor Dicus – to gain a 2-0 advantage.
The Rams rolled in the third set, with Dicus ending it on a middle attack from Sabrina Hargis.
Cornell compiled a .293 hitting percentage and was led by O'Connor's 18 kills. Dicus and Katie Sickelka both hit over .400 and contributed 12 and 11 kills, respectively.
Carroll hit .150 and was held to one service ace.