Volleyball ends season on bitter note with fifth-place finish in UAA tournament, misses playoffs

| Staff Reporter
A volleyball player in a white shirt and black shorts jumps near the right side of a volleyball net, reaching up with both arms to hit a blue and white volleyball.

Caitlin Lorenz jumps to block a shot against Claremont-Mudd-Scripps during a September 2019 game. (Photo by Curran Neenan / Student Life)

The Washington University women’s volleyball team came in fifth in the University Athletic Association (UAA) championship this weekend, ending a disappointing season with a decisive sweep over Case Western Reserve University after falling to Carnegie Mellon University in the first round of the tournament. 

The team played sloppily out of the gate in the 3-2 loss to Carnegie Mellon, committing errors early and losing the first set 25-18. WashU’s struggles continued in the second set, as the Bears fell into an early 10-5 deficit that they could not recover from. WashU regained momentum in the third and fourth sets, comfortably winning both by large margins. In the deciding fifth set, however, the team was not able to keep this momentum, going down 10-3 early and eventually losing 15-11 to get relegated to the consolation bracket. 

In the consolation semifinals against the University of Rochester, WashU flashed the potential many thought they possessed at the start of the season. They dominated from the jump, outclassing the Yellow Jackets in every facet of the game. WashU limited Rochester to a .101 hitting percentage while establishing their strength with a .315 hitting percentage. WashU won easily in three sets, going on multiple point streaks that carried them to victory. 

The team continued their strong play in the fifth-place match against Case Western Reserve. They dominated at the net, recording 50 kills. The opening set was ultra-competitive, filled with many lead changes and ties. Tied at 26, WashU was able to capitalize on their opponents’ mistakes and get a key first set victory. WashU continued that momentum and easily won the next set, clinching the fifth-place spot. 

In the tournament, some key players exhibited some very strong play. Senior Michaela Bach played exceptionally well at outside hitter, with 48 kills over the three matches. She had a team-best 21 kills in the final match, her last game for the Bears. Sophomore setter Faith Phillips registered many assists, leading the team in every game and notching 33 and 41 in the first and third matches. Junior Taryn Gurbach led the team in digs, recording 23, 15 and 17 in each match, respectively.

The team came in with high expectations this year, starting week one at No. 18 in the national rankings. They seemed like a team that could potentially compete at a very high level, but that potential never coalesced into wins. The team did not receive a bid to the Division III playoffs after their fifth-place finish in the UAA conference championship and ended the season with a frustrating 18-9 record, never going on a winning streak longer than four matches. 

This year’s team’s key contributors should be returning, offering some hope for a rebound back into top form next season. While the end result for this team was not exactly up to the standard predicted, the team still made strides as a unit and will be back next year rejuvenated.

Look back at volleyball’s storied history at WashU:

The story behind Teri Clemens and WU’s first national championship

Athlete of the Week: Volleyball senior Kirby Knapp on getting up after the sun and a fall without round robins

Volleyball comes from behind to clinch NCAA title

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