Volleyball remains undefeated after first weekend of UAA play
The atmosphere was intense, the crowd was engaged, and the stakes were set as sophomore Zoe Foster walked past the sideline to deliver her third consecutive serve in the fifth set of Saturday’s match vs. NYU. Foster lofted the ball over the net, and a rally ensued; as possession shifted back and forth between No. 20 WashU and No. 6 NYU, each squad struggled to gain control until senior Jasmine Sells charged in for the kill to seal the deal for the Bears.
It took five sets (the final three each decided by just two points), over two hours, and a number of lead changes, but WashU was able to cement the win vs. NYU (13-25, 25-18, 33-35, 25-23, 15-13), in a win that was the highlight of the weekend’s round robin. The team also won their two other conference matches vs. Carnegie Mellon (25-23, 25-20, 19-25, 25-21) and Brandeis (25-22, 25-10, 25-20), to improve to a stellar 12-0 record. After the win, WashU moved up fourteen spots into 6th place in the nation in the AVCA DIII coaches poll.
The Bears have matched their best start since 2015, a year in which they finished first in the UAA and made it to the NCAA regional finals, but head coach Vanessa Walby isn’t doing too much thinking ahead. “We truly are taking things day by day and match by match,” said Walby over email, after notching her 200th career WashU victory on Sunday. “[We’re] just trying to stay in the moment and not look far down the road.”
Over the weekend, WashU was led by the fierce duo of outside hitters, sophomore Jasmine Sells and senior Lane Bohrer. Through the first twelve games, Sells is tied with dynamic fifth year right side hitter Michaela Bach for the team lead with 147 kills. Freshman setter Sam Buckley also impressed, with 51 assists vs. NYU. Senior defensive specialist Taryn Gurbach led the team in digs, including a season high 18 vs. Brandeis, while fifth year Abby Li, who leads the team in blocks, chipped in with key plays as well, recording nine kills from the middle position vs. Carnegie Mellon.
Despite coming into the match as underdogs, WashU was able to remain focused heading into the crucial NYU match. Said Li on facing NYU, “I think our team did a great job mentally preparing without psyching ourselves out. We felt amped, but also calm and ready to dig deep for the game ahead of us.” After the win, WashU leapfrogged NYU in the standings, taking the conference lead.
Upperclassmen Bohrer, Gurbach, Bach and Li have been instrumental to the team’s success thus far, in their performance as well as their leadership. Said Walby: “I think mentally we have grown a lot as a team and our upperclassmen have played a huge part in that development.”
On returning for her fifth season, Li remains grateful, especially after the time she spent with friend and former WashU Basketball’s Justin Hardy. “I know that my friend [Justin] would’ve done anything to play another year, so everyday I try to be grateful that I have been given another chance to play the game I love.” Gurbach agreed, saying that Justin’s legacy is “something we take to heart in every practice and match.”
The team will seek to remain undefeated in its next match this Wednesday at Greenville. The team’s next conference match is vs. Rochester on October 2nd, and its next home game will be on October 7th vs. Lutheran.