Volleyball sweeps home tournament, ranked opponents
From there, the Bears took over the match and ended the set the way they ended every set of the weekend—with a victory.
“The whole time throughout the match, we always expected to win,” junior Kelly Pang said. “There were no doubts in our minds.”
Behind an incredible 82 digs from the team’s back row, the No. 2 Bears rallied in the set and went on to beat CNU 3-0 (25-17, 25-23, 25-20) to finish off a 4-0 weekend and win the WU/Asics National Invitational.
“I’m really proud of us as a team,” Pang, who registered 30 digs in the final match, said. “This is obviously a higher field of competition this weekend and I’m glad how we responded, and I think it says a lot, especially when we were down at times and were able to come back.”
The win came hours after a 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-11) victory over No. 20 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and the day after 3-0 wins against Ohio Northern University (25-14, 25-15, 25-19) and No. 8 Carthage College (25-13, 25-21, 25-20).
Facing three ranked teams, Wash. U. swept the tournament without dropping a set for the second straight year.
“We came in, and we competed, and at times we took them out of their play,” Luenemann said. “We were in our system and they were not in their system.”
Against CNU, the team weathered some struggles and a .191 hitting percentage to push its season record to 10-0. Senior Lauren Budde led the way up front for the Bears, recording 12 kills, and sophomore Meghan Byrne followed her with 10. With sophomore outside hitters Megan Odenthal and Tessa Blood out with injuries, freshman Lindsay Juriga stepped in and tallied eight kills.
“Lindsay was awesome,” junior Drew Hargrave said. “She really had to step up this weekend…and I thought her hitting was amazing. She never gets frazzled as a freshman.”
However, the defensive players were the heroes in the match. Senior Tricia Brandt picked up 17 digs, Budde had 11 and every Wash. U. player in the match dug at least one ball.
Earlier in the day, the team made quick work of Whitewater, as Budde again took control by hitting 14 for 18 (.778) with no errors. Hargrave matched Budde’s 14 kills as well.
On Friday, the Bears opened up the tournament without much difficulty against Ohio Northern. Budde (15 kills) and Hargrave (11) again paced the team offensively, and junior Marilee Fisher’s 38 assists were a high for her on the weekend. Brandt’s 15 digs were a team high on the match.
Sophomore Kaia Schwartz put forth a strong effort, with four kills (.400 percentage) and four total blocks.
Friday’s late match was the fourth time Wash. U. and Carthage had squared off since November of 2009, and all four times Carthage was ranked 13th or higher and was in the top 10 three times. But this match had the same result as the previous three, as the Bears won without allowing a set to the Lady Reds. The match was similar to Saturday’s final game; the team hit a season-low .186, but the defense, whose 62 digs were a season high before Saturday, carried the team.
Budde, who had double-digit kills in every match and ended with 54 total for the tournament, was named to the all-tournament team with Hargrave, who had 40 kills of her own and Pang, who had 62 digs.
With its usual suspects performing at high levels, the team is optimistic about the season so far.
“I think we’re playing a lot better than we did last season at this point,” Hargrave said. “I’m just really excited about where we are.”
The Bears head to Colorado to face three more ranked schools, beginning with old rival No. 9 Juniata College on Friday evening at 5:00 p.m. MDT. Wash. U. has won three straight against Juniata, including a come-from-behind 3-2 victory on the same weekend last year.
“The greatest war in the history of volleyball: Juniata and Washington University. The most storied rivalry in Division III volleyball,” Luenemann said. “Both teams are gonna come out, both guns a-blazin’.”