Career Nights Fuel Washington University Volleyball’s NCAA Semifinal Berth

Career Nights Fuel Washington University Volleyball’s NCAA Semifinal Berth

From Washington University Athletics

No. 16 Washington University in St. Louis volleyball rallied from a deficit to defeat No. 14 University of Mary Washington 3-2 in the NCAA Quarterfinal round on Thursday night, advancing the Bears to the NCAA Semifinals for the 18th time in program history.

WashU (26-10) will face No. 7 Southwestern University (34-4) Friday, Nov. 18 with the match scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. (CT). The Bears defeated UMW (31-4) for the first time in school history, while WashU improved to 7-0 in matches decided by a fifth set in 2016.

"This is becoming pretty typical of the team," said head coach Vanessa Walby. "I wasn't uncomfortable all day because the girls kept things pretty relaxed. The credit goes to the team for finding their grit."

In a very evenly matched contest the Bears finished with one additional kill than the Eagles, 72-71, however, WashU was much more efficient with its swings. The Bears finished the match with a collective .315 hitting percentage and 15 errors compared to UMW's .244 and 23.

Middles Caroline Dupont and Julianne Malek finished with career highs in kills to lead the Bears attack. Dupont set a new personal best while breaking the 20 kill plateau for the first time in her career as she ended the night with 21 kills. Malek totaled 17 on the night while senior Rexi Sheredy tallied 14 kills and digs apiece.

"The credit goes to our defense," said Dupont, who finished the night with a .514 hitting percentage. "They played amazing today and really dug a lot of balls to help get quality sets to our hitters."

Freshman setter Chloe Stile set a new best with 61 assists while Amanda Palucki and Ifeoma Ufondu each added eight kills to the Bear attack paced by Stile.

Just two matches removed from her previous career best in digs, freshman libero Zoe Baxter bettered her total against Heidelberg with four more, totaling 31 against UMW. Sophomore Loren Shin also contributed 19 digs while Ufondu led the net defense with seven blocks.

WashU 3 - Mary Washington 2 (27-25, 24-26, 23-25, 25-23, 15-9)

The Bears led 15-13 on a kill from Stile assisted by Baxter during the first set, but the Eagles went on an 8-2 run to take the lead. Sophomore Loren Shin substituted into the match and responded with two straight aces which brought the Bears within a single point of UMW, 21-20. UMW followed with three of the next five points and led 24-22.

Sophomores Ufondu and Malek had back-to-back kills to knot things up at 24-all, sending the first set to extra points. The Eagles scored the next point but three consecutive points from the Bears gave WashU the 1-0 match lead. Stile closed the set out with an unlikely kill, when a near block from the Eagles was hit by an off balance Stile over the net, falling just within the far line for a kill.

WashU led 15-10 in the second set as Dupont scored five of the Bears points on kills. UMW once again overcame an early lead to work itself within the set point at 24-23. Malek's kill sent the second straight set to extra points but two straight kills for the Eagles evened the match at one game apiece.

The third set was extremely close as neither team ever took a lead larger than two points. There were seven lead changes during the third set but WashU was on the wrong end of the final lead change as UMW took the third set 25-23, and the 2-1 match advantage.

The Bears built a 15-11 lead in the fourth set on multiple kills from middles Dupont and Malek. UMW began chipping away at the four-point lead until WashU called a timeout leading 21-20. Dupont responded with a powerful swing to put the Bears ahead by two. Another powerful swing by Dupont one play later put the Bears within a point of evening the match, which Malek sealed with a kill of her own. The Bears won the fourth set and sent the fourth straight NCAA Quarterfinal match of the day to a decisive fifth set.

Previously on the day Calvin College defeated Emory University 3-2, University of Northwestern (Minn.) beat Eastern University 3-2 and Southwestern University defeated Tufts University 3-2.

"Coach Walby always talks to us about grit and how we play our best when we show our personalities," added Malek. "We really wanted to win that decisive set and show our grit."

WashU opened the fifth set with a commanding 6-2 lead, forcing an Eagles timeout. UMW responded with a 3-1 run to tighten things up. Malek, Dupont and Rexi Sheredy gave the Bears a hearty 10-5 lead with a trio of kills. Ufondu put the Bears a single point away from heading to the semifinals with a solo block and the Bears waited one point before an attack from Dupont trickled off the top of the net onto open court for the Bears clinching point.

With the win, WashU volleyball advanced to the semifinal round for the 18th time in program history (1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2016). The Bears have posted a 14-3 record in semifinal matches.