St. Louis, Mo., Sept. 7, 2018 – The No. 19-ranked Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team posted a pair of straight set victories over Nebraska Wesleyan and Birmingham Southern during the Bear Invitational Friday evening in the WU Field House, including the 500th home victory in program history against the Prairie Wolves in WashU's first home match of 2018.
WashU improved to 4-2 on the year, while Nebraska Wesleyan fell to 2-4 and the Bears handed the Panthers their first loss of the year in six matches played. Freshman Michaela Bach concluded Friday evening with a .500 hitting percentage to lead the Bears while totaling 20 kills.
Match 1: WashU 3 – Nebraska Wesleyan 0
The Bears jumped to a 10-point advantage in the first set of action, claiming a 25-17 win as senior Ifeoma Ufondu led the way with four kills. She also added a block and junior Zoe Baxter led the defensive unit with 13 digs.
Baxter led the Bears again with 11 digs as WashU finished with a 27-15 dig advantage in the second set, winning 25-17. Bach recorded five kills in the much closer second set. The Prairie Wolves tied things up at 14-all before the Bears closed out the frame with an 11-6 run. Bach had back-to-back kills to end the set.
WashU finished the third set on an 8-0 run as Bach recorded the final four kills of the set and match. Sophomore Kirby Knapp assisted on three of those four kills and tallied 23 during the match to lead the Bears.
Baxter led the Bears with a career-high 36 digs while Bach and junior Leila King posted three block assists apiece. Bach was the lone WashU attacker to record double figures in kills with 14.
Match 2: WashU 3 – Birmingham Southern 0
The Panthers entered the match undefeated after picking up a win over Nebraska Wesleyan in the first match of the Bear Invitational and jumped ahead of WashU 6-1 in the first set. The Bears slowly clawed their way back, taking their first lead at 23-22 on an ace from sophomore Tricia Brown that caught Birmingham Southern's defenders off guard. Brown served WashU to victory with an additional ace for a 25-23 final score. Malek, senior Lauren Martin, King and Ufondu collected three kills apiece in the come from behind victory.
The Bears offense sprung to life in the second set, totaling 18 points on kills while Ufondu and Malek combined for 11. Despite the offensive firepower, Birmingham Southern kept the set close before King ended it, 25-23, on a pass from Knapp.
The third and final set began as the previous two did, with the Panthers and Bears trading points back-and-forth until WashU went on a 10-1 run. The run was highlighted by a solo block by King in addition to block assists by Malek, Martin and Ufondu. WashU claimed its seventh straight set played on a kill by King, ending the frame with a match clinching 25-15 score.
Malek and Ufondu totaled 11 kills apiece as King finished with 10. The Bears attack was paced by Knapp and junior Chloe Stile with a combined 33 assists.
The Bear Invitational continues Saturday with a WashU match against MacMurray at 10:30 a.m. The Red & Green will conclude the tournament in a top-25 showdown against No. 13 Carthage. Be sure to stay up to date on all your Bears scores and awards by following @WashUBears on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.