No. 7 Bears Sweep Bluffton in NCAA Opening Round

No. 7 Bears Sweep Bluffton in NCAA Opening Round

PRESS CONFERENCE | TOURNAMENT WEBPAGE | PHOTOS

St. Louis, Mo., Nov. 14 2014 – The No. 7-ranked Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team earned a 25-17, 25-15, 25-16 win over Bluffton University in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Division III Volleyball Championship Friday evening at the WU Field House.

Washington University improved to 34-5 on the season, while Bluffton ended its season with a 23-12 record. The Bears will face Hendrix College at 7 p.m. Saturday in the second round of the tournament. Hendrix earned a 3-0 win over Maryville College (Tenn.) in the first round Friday.

Washington U. hit .371 (17-4-35) as a team in the opening set, including five kills by junior Nkiru Udenze and four by sophomore Alex Sheredy. Bluffton took an early 7-5 lead in the first set after Washington U. was whistled for being in the net, but Sheredy hit a roll shot down the line for a kill and junior Allison Zastrow served an ace to tie the score. An attack error by Bluffton and back-to-back kills by Sheredy and sophomore Amanda Palucki gave the Bears a 10-7 lead. Udenze powered a kill through the block and sophomore Caroline Dupont hit a kill off an overpass to extend Washington U.'s lead to 16-11 and force a timeout by Bluffton. Kills by junior Jackie Nelligan and Udenze gave the Bears their largest lead of the set at 22-15. A kill down the line by Udenze and a cross-court kill by Zastrow finished the set with the 25-17 win for the Bears.

In set two, the teams played to an 11-11 tie, before a kill by Udenze sparked a 7-1 run for the Bears. Zastrow got a kill after sophomore Kalehua Katagiri made a leaping dig on a ball that bounced off the Bears' block, and Dupont followed with a solo block. Back-to-back aces by senior Lindsay Juriga made it 16-11 in favor of the Bears. After a side-out by Bluffton, Udenze and Dupont hit back-to-back kills to extend Washington U.'s lead to 18-12. Bluffton pulled to within 19-15 after an attack by Washington U. went wide, but Zastrow split the block for a kill, then served the final five points of the set, including a pair of aces, as the Bears won 25-15.

The Bears built a quick 9-3 lead in the third set after a kill by Dupont and a block by Nelligan and Zastrow. Bluffton got to within five several times, including at 19-14. The Bears regained a six-point advantage on an attacking error by Bluffton after Palucki dove near the bleachers to keep a ball in play during the point. After the Beavers were called for four hits, Nelligan got a kill to make it 22-14 in favor of the Bears, before they finished the match with the 25-16 win.

Washington U. hit .214 (37-15-103) in the match, while Bluffton finished with a .019 (24-22-104) hitting percentage. The Bears also tallied nine ace serves, including six in the second set. Udenze led Washington U. with nine kills and seven digs. Zastrow added eight kills, including five in the third set, nine assists, seven digs and a career-high three ace serves. Sheredy tallied six kills, six digs and two aces, while Nelligan and Palucki added five kills each. Juriga finished with 14 assists, three aces and five digs, and Katagiri led the Bears defensively with 10 digs.

Bear Notebook:  The Bears improved to 95-18 all-time in the NCAA Tournament … Washington U. won the only other match against Bluffton, a 3-0 victory Oct. 2, 1998 … Washington U. is 467-50 at home since 1985, including a 14-1 record this season … Nelligan moved into 10th on both Washington U.'s single-season (110) and career (253) block assists leaderboard … Katagiri recorded double-digit digs for the 33rd time this season.