Bears advance to national championship match

| Senior Sports Editor

Senior Erin Albers was not ready to hang up her jersey on Friday afternoon for the final time of her collegiate career.

Albers led the No.4 Washington University volleyball team with a career high 25 kills to a 3-2 come from behind victory over No. 6 Hope College in the NCAA Division III National Semifinal.

Freshman Kelly Pang bumps the ball against Carthage College in the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship match. Wash. U. advances to the National Championship match against Juniata College after defeating Hope College 3-2. Pang led the Bears with 15 digs. (Matt Mitgang | Student Life)

Freshman Kelly Pang bumps the ball against Carthage College in the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship match. Wash. U. advances to the National Championship match against Juniata College after defeating Hope College 3-2. Pang led the Bears with 15 digs. (Matt Mitgang | Student Life)

After taking control in the first set with a 25-21 win, the Red and Green struggled against the Flying Dutchmen. Hope set the tone early and maintained their leads in the second set (25-22) and third set (25-15). With Hope up 10-5 in the fourth set, the Bears seemed ready for an early departure.

But two Hope errors and a kill by sophomore Lauren Budde closed the gap to 8-10. Wash. U. continued to fight to knot the score and were stymied until an attack error by Drew Horst and back to back solo blocks by Budde and freshman Drew Hargrave gave the Red and Green a 17-16 advantage.

The Flying Dutchmen and the Bears continued to trade points until the score was knotted at 25. Budde made a kill and a Hope attack error gave new life to the Wash. U. offense as the teams headed to the decisive fifth set. Wash. U. and Hope had faced each other earlier in the season, with the Flying Dutchmen taking a 3-1 win.

Albers took control in the first set with the Bears’ first three kills as the teams traded points. Hope countered and took a 5-3 lead before Wash. U. battled back with a 4-1 run. The Flying Dutchmen took a timeout in an effort to regain the momentum but another attack error gave the Bears an 8-6 advantage.

A service ace by freshman Kelly Pang extended the lead before both teams traded points once more. Wash. U.’s offense stalled and the Flying Dutchmen strung together a four point run to put the score at 13-11.  The Bears used their final timeout and sophomore Kristen Thomas came out with a kill. After a kill from Hope’s Jacie Fielder brought the score to 14-12, the Bears capitalized on a setting error and clinched a spot in the National Championship game.

Pang led the Bears defensively with 15 digs and senior Laura Brazeal chipped in ten. Albers, Budde and Thomas had double digits kills with 25, 19 and 14 respectively. The team could not be reached for comments.

The Bears face No. 1 Juniata College at 7 p.m. (ET) in University Heights, Ohio. Juniata advanced after dispatching No. 2 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh In their last meeting, Wash. U. defeated Juniata 3-0 (28-26, 41-39,27-25) on September 18 in the Teri Clemens Invitational.