WU Volleyball blanked by Chicago in UAA Round Robin

Benjamin Simon | Staff Reporter

It feels like every weekend the Washington University volleyball team has another ranked opponent on their schedule. No. 3 Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, No. 11 Trinity University, No. 24 Illinois Wesleyan University; the list goes on.

This weekend, of course, was no different, with No. 6 University of Chicago meeting the Bears in the season’s first University Athletic Association Round Robin.

The tough schedule, however, is not new to the team. Last season, the Bears played six ranked teams before the UAA Round Robin. This season, the team has played four, touting wins against Trinity, Illinois Wesleyan, and Gustavus Adolphus College.

Curran Neenan | Student Life

Kirby Knapp sets up a kill against Westminster College Sept. 10. The Bears fell to No. 6 University of Chicago this weekend.

But University of Chicago is not Trinity, Illinois Wesleyan or Gustavus Adolphus. Chicago is Wash. U.’s sports rival and head coach Vanessa Walby’s former school. The team that, last season, beat Wash. U. twice and eliminated them from the UAA conference tournament. The team with two returning 2018 first team All-UAA players. Despite Wash. U.’s list of formidable opponents, the 12-1 Chicago Maroons—who had not lost since the second game of the season—could have given the Bears their toughest matchup of the year.

Walby, however, said her team was “focused,” undeterred by the two teams’ history and Chicago’s high national ranking.

Wash. U. had some momentum of its own, too. The team had won four games straight, a winning streak that was sparked by the team’s back and forth, nail-biting 3-2 victory over Trinity.

Two of those four wins were earned at this past weekend’s Round Robin competition, as Wash. U. put together its first back to back shutouts of the season against Case Western Reserve University and New York University.

Freshman Alaina Bohrer led the way with a career high 14 kills against Case. Junior Tricia Brown put together a kill percentage of .500 against Case, her second highest of the season. And the team’s stout defense held NYU to a total team kill percentage of .176.

“[Defensive specialist senior] Zoe Baxter did a fantastic job of [receiving serves],” Walby said of her team’s strong defensive showing.

The Bears’ two victories on Saturday put them in a prime position to knock down the UAA’s top team on Sunday. But Wash. U. had trouble building off of their recent success, getting off to a cold start against Chicago. With a hitting percentage of a mere -.167 in the first set, the Bears fell 25-15. As the match progressed, Wash. U. got more comfortable, raising their hitting percentage to .167 and .265 in the final two sets. But it was not enough to win a set, as Chicago’s efficient attack slowly punctured the Bears’ defense, beating Wash. U. in the one and only regular season match-up between the Midwest rivals.

The loss signaled a much needed break for the Bears. Since the beginning of their season on August 30, the team has had a match every weekend.

“It is nice to have this weekend off to rest, recover bodies and give the girls’ brains a break from volleyball,” Walby added.

The Bears will get right back to their rigorous schedule when their break ends. They will resume UAA conference play on October 6, where they will face off against Emory University—the number two team in the country.

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