Bears defeat NYU, set up showdown with Emory

| Sports Editor

Junior Lauren Budde led the attack against NYU, recording 14 kills in the 3-0 rout.

With only four teams left in the NCAA Division III volleyball championships, the Washington University Bears will be facing an old rival for a chance to get back to the national title game.

No. 3 Wash. U. came out on Friday night and overpowered No. 15 New York University from the start, taking a 3-0 (25-16, 25-16, 25-10) victory and setting them up for a showdown with rival and top-ranked Emory University on Saturday.

Playing in front of their home crowd at the Wash. U. Field House and a reported attendance of 1,500, the Bears came out firing from the start and never looked back.

“The crowd was amazing,” said sophomore Drew Hargrave, who finished with eight kills. “I walked in and the noise was incredible. It really pumped me up.”

After both teams came out in the first set and struggled to an 11-11 tie, the Bears made their move with a seven-point run, anchored by sophomore Marilee Fisher’s serves. Wash. U. kept the Violets from maintaining any sort of momentum from that point, and freshman Meghan Byrne’s two kills at the end of the set put the Bears up one set to none.

Junior Lauren Budde led the Bears with four kills on the set, and the Bears made it through with a .194 hitting percentage – thanks largely in part to NYU’s poor -.051 percentage, as the Violets tallied only seven kills and nine errors.

The Bears jumped out to an early lead in the second set, and after NYU rallied to tie the match at 8-8, Wash. U. slowly inched away from the Violets. With a 15-13 lead, the Bears went on a 7-1 run behind Fisher’s and Budde’s serves to gain some distance, and the Red and Green took the set on an attack error from NYU. While the Violets’ hitting improved on the set, their mark of .133 was outdone by the Bears’ .289, as Wash. U. found itself up 2-0. Budde picked up five kills in the set, and Pang’s eight digs helped out the back row.

The third set was when the Bears’ hitters began to shine, as the team hit an incredible .536 (16 attacks to 1 error) and used an early eight-point run to pick up a 12-3 advantage that they never came close to relinquishing. Budde – who picked up a team-high 14 kills on the match – put down the final kill of the match as the Bears placed an exclamation mark on their win over their conference rival.

“I was surprised, but we definitely brought a lot of fire,” Budde said about the third set. “The fire that we had tonight is enough to knock any team down to that level.”

In addition to her 14 kills, Budde picked up 2.5 blocks and nine digs, while Meghan Byrne was the team’s other player to pick up double-digit kills with 10. Pang’s 24 digs led the team, as did Fisher’s 33 assists.

Overall, the Bears hit .330 on the match and made quick work of the Violets, taking exactly one hour to dispatch of their opponents and never letting them pick up more than three points in a row.

“Certainly, you want to beat somebody as quickly as you possibly can,” head coach Rich Luenemann said. “But you haven’t seen our best yet.”

Now the Bears line up for a match against their arch-rival, Emory, who handed the Bears their most recent loss with a 3-1 defeat on November 6.

“We’re ready, for sure. I can’t wait,” Hargrave said. “I want to savor this, but I want to start thinking about that match very quickly. They’re a big rival for us, and I know that we can beat them with the energy we brought tonight.”

Following the 3:30 p.m. matchup between No. 3 Juniata College and No. 10 Calvin College, Wash. U. and Emory will face off tomorrow at 6 p.m.

“When the best are playing the best, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Luenemann said.

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