Rochester, N.Y., Nov. 7, 2015 – The No. 3-ranked Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team rallied from a 0-2 deficit and won the fifth set 15-7 against No. 1 Emory University Saturday to claim the 21st University Athletic Association (UAA) Championship in school history.
WashU improved to 32-2 overall with the win, while Emory dropped to 32-3. It was the 15th time in UAA history that WashU and Emory played for the title, and the Bears improved to 10-5 in those contests. The Eagles had won five of the last eight championship meetings prior to Saturday's victory for WashU. It was WashU's first UAA title since 2011 when the Bears also rallied from a two-set deficit and won the fifth set over Emory 15-8.
With the win, WashU secured an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship tournament for the 29th consecutive season. The Bears will find out their NCAA Regional destination and opponent when the NCAA Selection Show airs at 11 a.m. (ET) Monday, Nov. 9, on NCAA.com.
Trailing 0-2 for the third time this season, WashU came out strong in the third set and built an 8-1 lead after back-to-back aces by junior Caroline Dupont. Emory rallied and back-to-back blocks for the Eagles tied the score at 13-13. Junior Rexi Sheredy and senior Nkiru Udenze put away kills from the back row on back-to-back points as WashU regained the lead, but Emory again tied it at 15-15 and the teams traded points to an 18-18 tie. Senior Jackie Nelligan got a kill down the line and back-to-back errors by the Eagles gave WashU a 21-18 advantage. Emory got to within 22-21, before a kill down the line by Dupont and an attack into the net by the Eagles gave WashU a set-point. Dupont and Sheredy then teamed up for a block to give the Bears the 25-21 win.
In set four, the Bears fell behind early and used their second timeout of the set when Emory got an ace off the top of the net to grab a 10-3 lead. WashU got three straight points after the timeout, cutting the deficit to four, but was unable to get closer until freshman Natalie Stephanus dropped an ace into the back corner to bring the Bears within 15-12. Back-to-back kills by Sheredy closed the gap to two at 17-15, but the Eagles again stretched the lead to four with a pair of kills that made it 20-16. Emory then had an attack into the net and Nelligan got a solo block to make it 20-18, before Udenze split the block for a kill. The Eagles then had attacks sail out of bounds on back-to-back points to give the Bears the lead at 21-20, their first lead since 1-0. The teams alternated the next three points to a 22-22 tie, before Deupont and junior Amanda Palucki got a block and Stephanus served her second ace of the set to make it 24-22. The ensuing served landed long, but Udenze put away a kill in the middle on set-point to give WashU the 25-23 win and force a fifth set.
Udenze started the fifth set with another kill. After Emory tied it at 1-1, the Bears went on a 6-1 run that included back-to-back blocks and three straight kills by three different players to build a 7-2 advantage. The Eagles got a kill to cut the lead to four, but WashU got a side-out on every Emory serve in the set. An attacking error by Emory, followed by a kill by Dupont and a solo block by Zastrow made it 12-5 in favor of the Bears. WashU got match-point at 14-6, but the Eagles got a kill to stay alive. Dupont then hit a kill to the middle of the court on the second match-point opportunity for WashU, securing the 15-7 victory for the conference title.
The two teams battled point for point to start the match, and neither team led by more than three points until an error by the Bears gave Emory a 21-17 lead. WashU rallied to within 22-21, but Emory finished the set with three straight points to win 25-21. In set two, Emory took the lead midway through the set, but a kill by Dupont brought WashU to within 17-16. The Eagles went on an 8-1 run from that point to take set two 25-17 and grab a 2-0 lead in the match.
WashU finished with .169 attacking (58-25-195), while Emory was limited to .156 (58-30-180) hitting in the match. In the decisive fifth set, the Bears had seven kills without an error, while the Eagles hit -.038 (6-7-26), including three blocks by WashU. WashU out-blocked the Eagles 14-8 in the match.
Sheredy led WashU with 15 kills and 14 digs, including six kills in the fourth set. Udenze finished with 14 kills and 16 digs, while Dupont added 11 kills, four blocks and two aces. Nelligan tallied nine kills, two aces and eight blocks, including three solo stops. Zastrow recorded 51 assists and eight digs, while sophomore Lauren Fournier and Stephanus had 19 and 11 digs, respectively.
Bear Notebook: WashU improved to 49-11 all-time against Emory, including a 43-9 mark in UAA matches … The Bears are 7-2 against ranked teams this season … WashU improved to 4-1 in five-set matches this season, with three of the four wins coming after being down 0-2 … Sheredy (1,063) and Dupont (1,057) both passed Erin Albers (2006-09) for 22nd and 23rd, respectively, on the Bears' all-time career kills list … Nelligan's eight blocks moved her past Whitney Smith (2003-06) for fourth on WashU's all-time career leaderboard … Zastrow passed the 2,500 career assist mark, bringing her total to 2,504.