Volleyball reaches 14-0, 42 straight sets

| Senior Sports Editor

Junior setter Marilee Fisher sets the ball for sophomore Kaia Schwartz in a match against Christopher Newport University on Sept. 10. The No. 2 Bears swept rival No. 9 Juniata College and three other schools at the Molten Colorado College Invitational to bring their record to 14-0. Fisher, along with junior Kelly Pang and senior Lauren Budde, was named to the All-Tournament team.

Junior setter Marilee Fisher sets the ball for sophomore Kaia Schwartz in a match against Christopher Newport University on Sept. 10. The No. 2 Bears swept rival No. 9 Juniata College and three other schools at the Molten Colorado College Invitational to bring their record to 14-0. Fisher, along with junior Kelly Pang and senior Lauren Budde, was named to the All-Tournament team.

Records have started to fall for the Washington University women’s volleyball squad as it keeps going on its impressive run to begin the 2011 season.

The No. 2 Bears went to Colorado Springs, Colo., and swept all four teams in the Molten Colorado College Invitational, including a win against longtime rival No. 9 Juniata College on Friday night.

With the wins, the team runs its record to 14-0 and now holds the record for the best start in school history, having won its first 42 sets of the year.

“Our team chemistry is definitely coming together,” junior Lauren Budde said. “It’s getting better and better every game, and that is a big stride.”

Wash. U. improved its winning streak against Juniata to four straight matches, dating back to the 2009 season. But while the previous three were all close matches, the Red and Green left no room for suspense in Friday night’s contest (25-16, 25-13, 25-18), as they never trailed at any point in any of the match’s three sets.

“As the Washington University/Juniata match is the most storied rivalry in Division III volleyball, our players stepped on the court prepared to play from the onset,” head coach Rich Luenemann said.

Offensively, the team was firing on all cylinders. The Bears hit .417 on the match, with junior Drew Hargrave and senior Lauren Budde combining for 23 kills on 40 attempts with only one error. Sophomore Meghan Byrne also hit 10 kills and three aces.

On defense, the Bears picked up contributions up front and in the back row. Junior Kelly Pang’s 23 digs were the most of the team’s 50, and Budde and sophomore Megan Odenthal blocked well, with Budde tallying four block assists and Odenthal getting a solo block and two more block assists.

“We performed really well,” Budde said. “We really limited errors, and that definitely helped us pull ahead and make the score one sided.”

After facing Juniata, the Bears handed No. 12 Colorado College its first loss of the season, taking a 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 26-24) win over the Tigers. They prevailed in the third set despite needing extra points in a set for the first time all season.

Wash. U. worked around a mediocre hitting game, as they hit a season-worst .146 on the match. Budde led the team again with 13 kills, while freshman Lindsay Juriga landed six kills on only nine attempts.

But it was the back row that pulled the Bears through this one, as Pang (16 digs), Budde (15), and junior Tricia Brandt (11) made up the majority of the team’s 62 digs.

“They matched up really well against our offense and so they were able to pick up some balls a lot of teams aren’t able to pick up,” junior Marilee Fisher said. “Their team was able to hit around our block, but our defense adjusted and just got a bunch of really amazing plays.”

Saturday’s first match led to a milestone for the Bears’ leading hitter, as Budde tallied her 1,000th career kill in the second set en route to a 3-0 win (25-20, 25-17, 25-19) against No. 15 Concordia College. Her 14 kills led the team in the match, as did her one solo block and four block assists. Sophomore Kaia Schwartz also hit six-for-12 with no errors.

“It’s a great accomplishment and I definitely haven’t taken it for granted,” Budde said. “I couldn’t accomplish it without my teammates’ help.”

Luenemann opened up the bench in the final match of the tournament, as 16 players made it onto the court in the team’s 3-0 victory (25-10, 25-22, 25-10) over Endicott College. Three players—Budde, Hargrave and senior Kristen Thomas—picked up eight kills in the match. Sophomore Tanya Marvi’s eight digs were a team high, followed by junior Meg Buker’s seven. The team hit .393 on the match.

Budde (with a team-high 46 kills on the weekend) was named the Invitational’s most outstanding player, and Pang (62 digs) and Fisher (131 assists) joined her on the All-Tournament team.

“I knew we had a lot of returning talent, but I‘m not sure I knew we’d develop it this thoroughly and this quickly,” Fisher said. “I can’t wait to see where the rest of the season takes us.”

After a weekend off, Wash. U. will host the first University Athletic Association Round Robin of the 2011 season. The Bears will take on Carnegie Mellon University, Brandeis University and New York University.

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