Volleyball takes Emory to five sets before coming third at UAAs

| Senior Sports Editor

The playoff fate of the Washington University volleyball team now rests with the NCAA tournament selection committee. After sweeping Case Western Reserve University in the first round of the University Athletic Association tournament, the Bears could not beat No. 1 Emory University on Friday afternoon to advance to the UAA title match and vie for an automatic bid to the tournament.

Still, Wash. U. put forward a gritty performance against Emory, forcing the match into five sets. That achievement, coupled with the Bears’ 3-1 victory over No. 19 Carnegie Mellon University in the UAA third-place match on Saturday, make Wash. U., which finishes the regular season 24-8, a strong contender for an at-large bid to the tournament. The selection committee will announce the at-large bids and tournament seeding Monday afternoon.

The Bears, unranked going into the UAA tournament for the first time since polling began in 1992, began Friday with a match against Case Western, whom they had beaten in straight sets, 3-0, in a UAA round robin on Sept. 21. This time, the result was no different. Wash. U. trailed the Spartans for just 13 points over the three sets and sailed to another 3-0 victory (25-20, 25-16, 25-14).

Senior Leila King and sophomore Michaela Bach each had double-digit point totals, with King (16 points) getting 15 kills on a .370 hitting percentage and Bach (10.5 points) eight kills and two serving aces. Wash. U. outhit Case Western, .239 to .063, sending the Spartans to the consolation bracket.

Wash. U. started off strong against Emory in the semifinals, getting off to a 12-4 run in the first set before the Eagles went on a 6-1 stretch to narrow the Bears’ lead to three at 13-10. The Bears resisted the challenge, though, maintaining a lead from start to finish. They won the opening set, 25-21, on a service ace from junior Kirby Knapp.

Emory began to find its groove in the second set. After making 13 errors in the first set—more than they had in any other set this season—the Eagles found their composure in the second set, raising their -.031 first set hitting percentage to .167. Still, the Bears had a lead late. Knapp had the serve with the Bears up, 23-20, but two Emory kills and a service ace locked the game at 23. The Bears had another chance to win the second set at 24-23, but an attack error from Bach pushed the set to extra points. After some back-and-forth, an ace gave Emory the victory, 28-26.

The Bears began the third set hot once again, with a 4-0 run giving them a 6-3 lead early on. Emory soon answered with a 4-0 run of its own, grabbing the lead away from Wash. U. The two teams then battled for control, neither one gaining more than a two-point lead for the rest of the set. Wash. U. had the serve with a 21-19 lead, but an Emory timeout stemmed the Bears’ momentum and the Eagles came back to win, 25-22. Emory increased its hitting percentage to .467 in the third set, the highest of the match, while Wash. U.’s was at .241.

Refusing to be put away quietly, Wash. U. stormed back in the fourth set, hitting at its match-high .345 to glide to the set victory, 25-17. Emory struggled once again, making nine errors on just 33 attack attempts.

At first, the decisive fifth set was close. Neither team scored more than three points in a row before Emory went on a 4-0 run after being tied at 8-8. Down 12-8, the Bears could not come back. They grabbed two points on kills from Bach and junior Tricia Brown, yet could not muster the miracle upset. Emory won the fifth set, 15-10, beating the Bears 3-2 and advancing to the UAA championship game (which the Eagles won over the University of Chicago Maroons on Saturday, 3-2).

The Red and Green would have to play Carnegie Mellon for third on Saturday. Coming into the match, the Bears had beaten the Tartans, 3-1, in both of the teams’ last two matchups. That result once again held true, as Wash. U. won the first two sets before stumbling in the third and bouncing back in the fourth for its third straight 3-1 victory over CMU and third place in the UAA.

Senior Hannah Turner helped lead the charge against the Tartans, accumulating a personal season-high 18 points as she collected 16 kills on a .368 hitting percentage. King, Brown and Bach each all had double digit points, while Knapp had 41 assists and senior libero Zoe Baxter had a match-high 25 digs.

This year is the second in a row that the Bears have come third in the UAA. Last season, they fell to Chicago in the UAA semi-finals before beating CMU, 3-1, to win third place. The Bears collected an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and won their first-round match against Cornell College, 3-0, before falling to Illinois Wesleyan, 3-1, in the second round.

The selection committee will make its announcement regarding the tournament at 11:30 a.m. Nov. 11. You can watch the selection live.

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