Volleyball rides hot streak to two more victories

| Senior Sports Editor

Just days after securing the third seed in the University Athletic Association, the Washington University volleyball team kept winning on Friday night at the Holiday Inn Express Classic III, beating the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and Augustana College. The Bears have now won eight straight matches and are 20-6 on the season, having cemented their 34th straight season with 20 wins or more.

In the first match Friday, the Bears beat UW-Platteville, 3-1, refusing to let a second-set loss hold them back. Then, Wash. U. shut out Augustana, 3-0, limiting the Vikings to a .098 hitting percentage and winning the three sets by an average of 11 points, the Bears’ largest margin of victory since an Aug. 30 sweep, 3-0, of Fontbonne University.

Wash. U. hit its stride early on against Platteville, making just two errors on 30 attempted kills to swing at a .367 hitting percentage. Four different Bears had kills within the game’s first eight points and the Red and Green used an early 6-0 run to pull away from the Pioneers. Platteville took two timeouts early, at 8-3 and 12-4, but could not disable the Wash. U. momentum. The Bears won the first set, 25-16.

Platteville stood tall in the second set, bouncing back from four straight Wash. U. points at the start with an 8-0 run to put them ahead 8-4. Wash. U. briefly regained the serve after sophomore Michaela Bach landed a kill, but the Pioneers nipped the Bears’ comeback in the bud, totaling 15 kills in the set to win, 25-21.

The match’s third set was riddled with errors, as the two teams combined for a match-high 12, but the Bears stormed back after being down late to win the pivotal set and position themselves for a victory in the fourth. Wash. U., which swung at a dismal .098 in the set, found itself down, 17-13, before narrowing the score to 19-18 when freshman Alaina Bohrer and sophomore Caitlin Lorenz combined for a clutch block to retain the serve and tie the game. The Bears then won three of junior Tricia Brown’s serves before, points later, Bach slammed a kill to seal the third set.

The Bears finished off the Pioneers in the fourth set, 25-17. Bach and Bohrer both had 11 kills in the match, while senior Leila King swung at a .600 hitting percentage, a match high. Brown led Wash. U. with 15 digs and junior Kirby Knapp had 39 assists.

Wash. U. built on its first-match success in their match against Augustana. Four early errors, including two on service, put the Bears down at first, but Wash. U. kept the game close before going on a 10-2 run that Brown and Lorenz emphasized with a combined block. The Bears won the set, 25-17.

There was no losing the second set this time, though. Wash. U. kept the pressure on, raising its hitting percentage from an already-impressive .382 to .414 in the second set. The Bears led from the start and never trailed, making just one error in the set. They finished on a 15-4 run to win the set, 25-13.

Junior Rachel Cheng, who has started just one match for the Bears so far this year, had a standout third set, leading Wash. U. to victory with her serve. Cheng had four points in the match, a career-high. The Bears took advantage of Augustana’s eight errors and made just four of their own, so falling to a .259 hitting percentage did not harm them. They won the set 25-12 to complete the three-set sweep, their eighth of the year. Wash. U. has been shut out just once, on Sept. 22 against then-No. 6 University of Chicago, which is now the top-ranked team in the country.

After totaling 63 assists in the two matches, Knapp was named to the Holiday Inn Express Classic All-Tournament Team. She is third in the UAA with 9.83 assists per set. Senior Zoe Baxter, who sits second in the Wash. U. record books with 2,094 career digs, had 28 digs on the day.

The Bears now face three local opponents in tune-ups before UAA championships, which are the weekend of Nov. 8. They host Centre College and Millikin University next Saturday at 10 a.m. before travelling to face Greenville University on Tuesday, Nov 5.

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