Whitewater, Wis. Nov. 12, 2016 – The Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team is headed to the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time since 2010 after defeating No. 11 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater 3-1 in the Regional Round Final in Russell Arena.
The Bears (25-10 Overall) finished ahead of the Warhawks (24-7) in several categories throughout the four set match, including kills (64-50), digs (65-60), blocks (9-6) and hitting percentage (.366-.159). Freshman setter Chloe Stile paced the potent Bears attack with 54 assists, her third match in the past four exceeding 50 total.
"We had to stick to our game plan against a very good Whitewater team," answered head coach Vanessa Walby. "We saw them earlier in the season and knew it would be a tough matchup."
Senior Caroline Dupont was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Whitewater Regional as sophomore Ifeoma Ufondu was also named to the Regional All-Tournament team. Dupont and Ufondu led the Bears against UW-Whitewater with 15 kills apiece.
"I feel like the award is for the whole team," said Dupont. "It is reflective on how well the team played as a group. I'm really excited to accept the honor on their behalf."
WashU 3 - UW-Whitewater 1 (24-26, 25-16, 25-21, 25-20)
Sophomores Julianne Malek and Ifeoma Ufondu assisted on a block to tie things up at five-all in the opening set before four straight points for the Warhawks caused a Bears timeout. WashU responded with back-to-back kills from Ufondu and senior Rexi Sheredy. Several plays later senior Caroline Dupont gave WashU its first lead of the match, 16-15. UW-Whitewater evened things up at 19-all before a Sheredy kill and Zoe Baxter ace put the Bears ahead by two again. The Warhawks responded with three straight points to take a 22-21 lead but the Bears pushed back ahead. WashU worked its way to within a point of the set victory until the Warhawks rallied for three straight points to claim set one 26-24 despite a Bears .412 hitting percentage.
"It was competitive volleyball to open the match," added Ufondu. "We couldn't be upset by the result because it was two competitive teams playing solid volleyball. We wanted to stay focused and continue to execute which we knew we could do."
Sheredy helped the Bears out to an early 5-2 lead with an ace while senior Amanda Palucki chipped in a kill. UW-Whitewater used its own 5-2 run to even things up at 7-all before Malek gave WashU the lead with back-to-back kills. Freshman Chloe Stile sent a backward pass over her head to an attacking Dupont for a kill that put the Bears ahead 12-9 resulting in a UW-Whitewater timeout. WashU continued its run with three more unanswered points highlighted by a block from Sheredy and Dupont. Stile had behind the head no-look attack and two plays later assisted on a block with Malek to even the match at one set apiece. WashU attacked successfully .500-percent of the time during the second set while holding the Warhawks to a .100 clip.
UW-Whitewater held a steady three to four-point lead throughout the third set before a powerful downward swing from Malek found open court to give the Bears momentum. Dupont followed the kill with a solo block, bringing the Bears within two at 18-16. A Warhawk error preceded a solo block and kill from Sheredy that put the Bears ahead for the first time in the set at 19-18. Moments later the teams were knotted up at 21-all with Sheredy at the service line. Crucial digs from Sheredy and Baxter extended the next rally until Palucki found open court which put WashU ahead 22-21. Stile and Dupont paired for a kill which gave the Bears a two-point advantage. Ufondu ended the set with a powerful kill while Palucki finished the set a perfect four-of-four on attack attempts.
Sophomore Natalie Stephanus gave the Bears a 4-3 lead on a service ace in the fourth set. WashU extended its lead to 6-3 on a block from Malek and Stile. Consecutive kills from Dupont increased the Bears advantage to 11-5. The Warhawks responded with six straight points to even things up 11-11. WashU recaptured the lead on kills from Malek and Ufondu, as the duo combined for a block as well. UW-Whitewater called a timeout after a Ufondu kill gave the Bears an 18-15 advantage. The Warhawks rallied to even things up but three straight errors put WashU back ahead by three. Sheredy extended the lead to 22-18 on a kill and moments later ended the match sending WashU to the NCAA Elite Eight.
Baxter led the team with 22 digs while Sheredy and sophomore Loren Shin reached double figure dig totals as well. Sheredy finished with two solo blocks and Malek tallied five block assists.
The Bears will await their next opponent in the NCAA Elite Eight, the winner of the Mary Washington and No. 10 Juniata match. The match is scheduled for Thursday Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. (CT) in Oshkosh, Wis. Be sure to stay up to date on all your Bears scores and awards by following @WashUBears on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.