Lady Bears sweep weekend

| Sports Editor

Washington University unleashed a flurry of kills and aces en route to sweeps over No. 23 Christopher Newport University, Endicott College, Williams College and Illinois Wesleyan University this weekend at the Wash. U. Invitational II.

“Nicole Penwill did a good job of stepping in for [junior] Erin Albers,” senior, co-captain Audra Janak said. Penwill, a sophomore, tied her career high of seven kills, produced three blocks and hit .462 against Endicott College.

“It’s really exciting to come off the bench,” Penwill said. “I had big shoes to fill.”

The team was propelled to victory after a strong serving performance by senior co-captain Nikki Morrison, who extended Wash. U.’s lead to 15-2 in the first set against Endicott. With Morrison serving, the Red and Green went on a 10-0 run. A string of errors and a late rally brought the set to 25-17.

The second set continued to be competitive, but a solo block by freshman Lauren Budde shifted the momentum in favor of Wash. U. Budde clinched the set with an ace to take the set 25-19. Wash. U. jumped ahead in the final set with a 7-0 streak and rolled to a 25-14 win.

The Williams match brought more spirit to the Field House, as Wash. U. took the first two sets 25-19 and closed the third set at 25-14. Fans from both schools loudly cheered for their teams as Wash. U. battled Director’s Cup winner Willams College, the runner up.

Freshman Erin Kasson notched five kills in seven attempts in the second set. Janak, Albers and senior Ali Crouch contributed six kills against the Ephs.

No. 4 Wash. U. trampled over No. 23 Christopher Newport on Saturday. An attack by Alberts rolled along the top of the net before falling on the other side to bring the first set to 24-20. The Red and Green took the second and third set 25-12 and 25-17 with key kills from Crouch. A few fans did push-ups for every kill and ace made by Crouch.

“We’re trying to focus on improving our ball control and serving really tough. [Good serving] makes it a lot easier to set up the block,” Assistant Coach Louella Lovely-Maxwell said. “Serving is one aspect of the game that you can absolutely control.”

The results spoke for themselves, as Janak led the Bears on a 15-0 run while serving against Illinois Wesleyan. Janak had five aces in the stretch until losing serve at the 23-8 mark on the way to a 25-10 win.

“I got lucky,” Janak said. “Going straight allows me to change my serve at the last moment more often,” the senior noted after changing to a straight jump serve instead of one from an angle.

Head Coach Rich Luenemann constantly called the serves to respond to changes in Illinois Wesleyan’s strategies, according to Janak. Wash. U. took the first two sets 25-21 and 25-20 and boasted a team hitting percentage of over .400 in all three sets.

Seniors Alli Alberts, Janak and Morrison were named to the All-Tournament Team. Alberts, also a co-captain, led the Bears with 34 kills while Morrison hit a team best .481 with 31 kills. Janak dished out 108 assists and 16 kills.

The Lady Bears take their nine-match winning streak on their last road trip of the regular season. The Red and Green finish UAA conference round robin play against No. 2 Emory University, the University of Chicago, Brandeis University and New York University this weekend.

Both Wash. U. and the Emory Eagles are tied for first in the UAA. The two programs also share a historic rivalry. “Hopefully, we can eat some eagles,” Janak said.

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