From Washington University Athletics
Washington University in St. Louis volleyball is headed to the NCAA Championship match after defeating No. 7 Southwestern (Texas) 3-0 in the NCAA Semifinals on Friday night in Oshkosh, Wis. The Bears will face No. 2 Calvin College on Saturday at 7 p.m. (CT) also in Oshkosh, Wis.
The Bears (27-10) utilized an attack that committed just eight errors on the night while forcing Southwestern (34-5) to 19 errors. Collectively as a team WashU hit the ball at a .347 rate en route to totaling 50 kills. Sophomore Julianne Malek was flawless, as The Woodlands, Texas-native finished the match with 16 kills and zero errors for a .667 hitting percentage to lead the team.
WashU secured a berth in the NCAA Division III National Championship match for the 15th time in school history and is in search of an unprecedented 11th title. With the win WashU matched its season long win streak of six matches.
"I think in previous years we peaked more in the middle of our season, and this year we definitely struggled in the beginning," discussed senior outside hitter Rexi Sheredy. "Now we've finally figured out what works for us. We're coming together as a team and definitely peaking at the right time."
WashU 3 – Southwestern 0 (25-13, 25-22, 25-14)
Two of the three WashU seniors reached double figure kill totals as Amanda Palucki and Rexi Sheredy had 10 apiece, while the third senior Bear, Caroline Dupont, nearly reached the mark with eight herself.
Malek, Palucki, Sheredy and Dupont accounted for 88-percent of the Bears kills, 44 of 50 total. Freshman setter Chloe Stile paced the attack with 38 assists while the Bears defense came up big with a large gap between the two team's dig totals. WashU finished with 80 while Southwestern totaled 56.
"We kept telling the girls to trust the process. It's going to be about the process," said head coach Vanessa Walby. "We're playing things at the right time and we're learning together as a group at the right time. The girls have been pretty relentless and pretty patient with the process, and not settling where we were and improving every single day in the gym."
Freshman Zoe Baxter led the group with 18 digs while sophomore Natalie Stephanus (16), Sheredy (15), Stile (11) and sophomore Loren Shin (10) also reached double digit dig totals.
The Bears utilized a 12-2 run to create an 11-point gap between WashU and the Pirates in the first set, 20-9. Dupont and Sheredy closed the first set out at 25-13 with a combined block.
WashU trailed 21-17 in the second set before a furious six point run swung the momentum in the Bears favor. Sheredy had three kills on the run and back-to-back kills from Malek and Dupont ended the set 25-22.
The third set, saw the Bears steadily outscore the Pirates including a 6-0 run led by multiple kills from Stile. After the run WashU led 10-4 and never looked back as it cruised to a 3-0 victory after Malek clinched the third set, 25-14, with a kill.
WashU and Calvin have previously met 10 times, with the Bears winning nine of those contests. The lone loss came last season in a tightly contested 3-2 contest during a regular season tournament.
Calvin is 32-1 on the season, with its lone 3-2 loss coming in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) Championship to Hope College. The Knights defeated Northwestern University 3-0 to secure its fifth national championship match in program history.
"It will be a good match," added Walby. "I mean it's the national championship. If it's not a good match, we're not entertaining the volleyball world in Division III. Watching them tonight, I think it's going to be competitive. Calvin has always had a great program."