In fall 2012, Washington University’s volleyball team spent all of September and October ranked No. 1 in the country. But late-season struggles sent the Bears tumbling down the rankings, and the team failed to advance past the regional round.
That year’s freshmen enter this season as seniors, and three years later, they have still not advanced to the Division III quarterfinals. Last year’s graduates were the first in three decades not to reach the quarters in their Wash. U. careers, and this year’s seniors don’t want to become the second.
One set away from capturing their first quarterfinal trip since 2010, the No. 7 Red and Green lost in the regional finals in front of a large crowd at the Field House on Sunday by a final score of 23-25, 25-19, 18-25, 27-25 and 15-12.
The Bears begin postseason play against Bluffton University on Friday at 8 p.m., with the winner facing the winner of Hendrix College versus Maryville College in the regional semifinals on Saturday. If the Bears can win their first two games, they could face University Athletic Association rival and No. 5 Emory University in the regional championship.
The No. 5 Bears (33-5 record) failed to capitalize on their momentum and lost in the semifinals to a pesky, unranked University of Chicago squad and finished third overall.
After playing one home game in the past seven weeks, the Washington University volleyball team returned to the Field House in impressive fashion, winning all four of the slated matches in straight sets for the first time since 2012.
Hawaii is a hotbed for volleyball talent, and Washington University has taken full advantage.
Sophomore libero Hua Katagiri and recently graduated Kelly Pang (class of 2013), the volleyball team’s all-time digs leader, played for the same volleyball club in Hawaii under the same coach and went to high schools only 15 minutes away from each other.
The last four regular-season matchups between Washington University and Emory University in volleyball had gone a full five sets, with Wash. U. winning three of four tight matches. Fifth set number 5 came on Saturday, with the No. 7 Bears defeating the No. 3 Eagles in a battle for University Athletic Association supremacy.
Trailing 16-21 in the second set against No. 6 Juniata College, the No. 8 Washington University volleyball team was in danger of dropping its second match of the day after losing to No. 9 Elmhurst hours earlier on Friday at the Elmhurst Invite III.
The No. 4 Bears opened up conference play this weekend with games against Brandeis University, New York University and the University of Chicago. Despite sweeping both Brandeis and NYU on Saturday, the Bears were unable to beat rival Chicago in a Sunday matinee for the second-straight season. The loss snapped Wash. U.’s 12-game win streak and puts the Bears’ record at 20-3 on the season.
Sophomores Rexi Sheredy and Caroline Dupont are inching their way toward the Washington University Volleyball record book one kill at a time.