No. 1 Bears Open NCAA Regional with Sweep Over UC Santa Cruz

No. 1 Bears Open NCAA Regional with Sweep Over UC Santa Cruz

From Washington University Athletics

The top-ranked Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team earned a 25-17, 25-23, 25-14 win over the University of California Santa Cruz Friday afternoon in the opening round of the Thousand Oaks, Calif. Regional hosted by California Lutheran University.

WashU improved to 33-2 overall with the win, while UC Santa Cruz ended its season with an 11-12 record. WashU will face No. 7 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in the Regional Semifinal at 2:30 p.m. (PT) Saturday. C-M-S defeated No. 12 Southwestern University (Texas) 25-14, 25-16, 25-17 in the first match of the day Friday.

WashU and UC Santa Cruz traded leads to open the match and three straight kills by junior Caroline Dupont gave the Bears a 9-7 lead. After the Banana Slugs tied the score at 10-10, WashU went on a 4-0 run that included two kills and an ace by Dupont to take a 14-10 lead. UC Santa Cruz got to within three at 16-13, but a block by senior Jackie Nelligan and junior Amanda Palucki, followed by three straight kills by Palucki pushed the Bears' lead to 20-13. A serving error by UC Santa Cruz gave WashU set-point, but the Bears had back-to-back attacking errors before Dupont's sixth kill ended the set with a 25-17 win for WashU. 

Set two was a battle throughout, with UC Santa Cruz gaining a 20-18 advantage. Dupont answered with a kill off an overpass, and an attack by the Banana Slugs sailed wide to tie the score at 20-20. Another attacking error by UC Santa Cruz and a kill by junior Rexi Sheredy gave WashU the lead at 22-21. After another tie at 22-22, kills by Sheredy and Nelligan made it 24-22 in favor of the Bears. The Banana Slugs got a side-out, before a kill by Palucki gave WashU the 25-23 win and a 2-0 lead in the match.

In the third set, WashU jumped out to a 6-2 lead behind a pair of ace serves by Sheredy. The Bears went on a 5-1 run that included three kills by Dupont midway through the set to build a 15-8 lead. The Banana Slugs got to within six before WashU went on a 5-0 run to extend the lead to 21-10 after Sheredy dropped in another ace off the top of the net. The teams traded points the remainder of the match and a kill by Sheredy sealed the 25-14 win to send WashU to the Regional Semifinal.

WashU hit .354 (45-10-99) as a team in the win, while limiting UC Santa Cruz to .144 (32-18-97) attacking. Dupont led the Bears with 13 kills and no errors for a .591 hitting percentage. Sheredy added 10 kills, 10 digs and three aces, while Palucki chipped in with eight kills. Nelligan tallied seven kills and seven blocks, and senior Nkiru Udenze also finished with seven kills and nine digs. Senior Allison Zastrow finished with 37 assists and a team-high 13 digs.

Bear Notebook: WashU improved to 97-19 all-time in the NCAA Tournament … The Bears have reached the Regional Semifinal in all 30 NCAA Appearances in program history … WashU is 2-0 all-time against UC Santa Cruz, and the two teams met for the first time since 1989 … It was the Bears' 20th three-set victory this season … Nelligan passed Dianne Stites (1987-90) for 18th on WashU's all-time career leaderboard with 1,107 … Dupont and Sheredy both increased their career kills totals to 1,070, moving into a tie with Lisa Becker (1989-92) for 20th on the Bears' all-time list … Nelligan now has 122 block assists this season, the sixth-highest total in WashU single-season history.