No. 3 Washington U. Advances to NCAA Great Lakes Regional Final

11/14/2008

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SPRINGFIELD, Ohio - The No. 3 Washington University volleyball team advanced to the Great Lakes Regional final in the 2008 NCAA Division III volleyball tournament with a 3-0 (27-25, 25-20, 25-22) win over No. 5 seed College of Mount St. Joseph on Friday, Nov. 14, in Springfield Ohio. The Lions (29-11) tested the Bears (32-6) in each of the three frames but WU found a way to pull out a win each time.

It was the tremendous play of the two WU middle hitters that propelled the team to the sweep. Junior middle hitter Erin Albers was outstanding for Washington University, tallying 14 kills while hitting an astronomical .632. Freshman middle hitter Erin Kasson also hit .600, converting 7-of-10 attacks with just one error. She led all players with five total blocks and the Bears finished the match with seven team blocks. The Washington University middles combined for 21 kills and a hitting percentage of .621.

Washington U. survived a rocky start in the first set to pull out a 27-25 win. Mount St. Joseph started strong in taking a 6-2 lead in the opening moments of the match, but the Bears clawed their way back to take control in the latter stages of the frame. It was an ace from junior libero Laura Brazeal that gave the Red and Green a 17-16 lead in what was a 5-0 run that turned the momentum.

On the next play Kasson powered the ball through a double-block to push the WU cushion to 18-16, and she combined with senior setter Audra Janak to send back a Lion attack which made the score 19-16. While it seemed like the momentum had permanently turned for Washington University, that did not end up being the case.

Jamie Grauvogel brought Mount St. Joseph from behind to tie the match at 23-23. Twice the Lions survived a WU match point opportunity, but a kill from Albers followed by an Anna Richter attacking error sealed the narrow first-frame win for the Bears. Senior right side Nikki Morrison led the Bears with five kills in the first set, but Grauvogel led all players with six scores.

Coming off a hard fought first set, Washington University put its foot on the accelerator to jump ahead 8-2 to start the second. But Mount St. Joseph proved to be a tough out and used an 8-3 scoring run to cut its deficit to just a point, 11-10. Senior outside hitter Ali Crouch broke the Lions' momentum with a kill on the next point, and the Bears stretched their lead back to four points.

Once again it was not enough and Mount St. Joseph slowly chipped away at the Washington University advantage, eventually tying the frame at 17-17 when Caitlin Sargent and Anna Richter combined on a block. But the Lions never took over the lead and a Sarah Dunn serving error followed by an Albers put-back on consecutive points was enough to give Washington U. the final edge

Albers led all players with five kills in the second frame and the Bears hit .323 as a team, compared to Mount St. Joseph's .105 attack percentage. Grauvogel added four more kills to her tally to notch 10 through two sets.

On the verge of elimination, Mount St. Joseph came out strong in the third, leading 5-1 in the opening moments. The lead did not hold up for very long as Albers settled into a groove with back-to-back kills and a block on the next three points. The Lions pulled back in front by four points before an 8-0 scoring run from Washington University put the Red and Green up for good.

A kill from Crouch and an attacking error by the Lions knotted the set at 10-10, with Morrison and Kasson combining on a block on the next play to give Washington University its first lead of the frame, which it never relinquished. A late run by Mount St. Joseph enabled the Lions to pull within two points on several occasions, but they never got over the hump and Kasson recorded a kill on an overpass to clinch the Washington U. victory.

Morrison also had double digit kills for the Bears, finishing the match with 10 in addition to three block assists. Janak recorded a double-double with 32 assists and 12 digs, and Brazeal led all players with 19 digs.

Washington U. will attempt to win its ninth-straight NCAA regional championship on Saturday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. (ET). The Bears will face either No. 8 Ohio Northern University or fifth ranked and regional host Wittenberg University in the final on Saturday evening. The Red and Green picked up a 3-0 win over Ohio Northern on Sept. 6, and they have not faced Wittenberg in 2008.

Article courtesy of Washington-St. Louis athletics.

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