St. Louis, Mo. Sept. 2, 2016 – The Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team split its first two matches at home in the Field House during the Baden Invite. The Bears defeated Knox College in three straight sets before falling in four to DePauw University.
WashU (1-1 Overall) posted strong numbers on the attacking side with more than 40 kills in each match. However DePauw was able to take advantage of several miscues to hand the Bears their first loss on the 2016 season.
WashU 3 – Knox 0 (25-19, 25-16, 25-20)
The Prairie Fire jumped out to an early 11-8 lead before an attacking error and Savannah Zhang's serving turned the momentum in the Bears favor. Zhang led WashU on a seven point swing to put it ahead 15-11, scoring multiple aces during the streth.
A series of kills from seniors Amanda Palucki and Rexi Sheredy put the Bears up 20-14, before Knox scored three of the next four points to pull closer. Two Knox errors before Natalie Stephanus' ace put the Bears within a single point of closing out game one, but the first set match point would have to wait until Caroline Dupont seized the opportunity for a kill on a weakly hit ball over the net.
The Bears cruised in the second set behind the service of junior Lauren Fournier and Dupont. Julianne Malek's kill put the Bears ahead by 10 points, giving the team a 13-3 advantage. The two teams traded points back and forth until Zhang finished set two with a crafty drop shot.
WashU and Knox picked up the intensity during the third and final set as the score was tied as late as 18-all on Malek's kill set by Zhang. The Bears scored seven of the final nine points with Dupont and Ifeoma Ufondu closing out the match with a combined block.
Sheredy led the team with 10 kills on 17 hits (.412), while Zhang paced the offense with 30 assists and defensively with eight digs.
DePauw 3 – WashU 1 (19-25, 25-17, 19-25, 21-25)
Two sophomores finished with double-digit kills in Ufondu and Malek, but the Bears errors in sets one and four proved to be their downfall. WashU finished the match with 50 kills compared to DePauw's 45.
The Tigers jumped out of the gate strong to build a 15-7 lead before the Bears clawed their way back into the set with six of seven points scored. Palucki, Dupont and Chloe Stile scored points while a few DePauw errors narrowed the gap to 16-13. However the Bears were never able to trim the lead to fewer than three points in set one.
The Tigers appeared to be on a roll again with another early 7-3 lead but Sheredy and Ufondu put a stop to the DePauw run with kills of their own.
The Tigers responded with a quick score before WashU benefitted from six straight errors on the visitors side. Kills from Dupont, Malek and Sheredy pushed the Bears lead to 20-16 before Zhang's service game nailed home the second set victory.
In the third set, the Bears refused to let DePauw run away with the action and kept the score within a few points. Malek gave the Bears the 16-15 lead with a kill until a five point swing put the Tigers back in charge.
Ufondu stopped the bleeding with back-to-back kills but DePauw scored five of the final six points for the 25-19 game three win.
The Tigers regained the momentum and carried it into the fourth and final set. The Bears trailed by 20-10 before showing tremendous heart in battling back. Ufondu was the center of that fight, as her attacks forced the team back into the action. She had five kills in the final stretch.
Ufondu and Malek both set career highs with 12 and 10 kills respectively. The two also posted solid hitting percentages with Malek's .400 topping the team. Stile finished the match with 20 assists, with Zhang chipping in 19. Natalie Stephanus led the team on the defensive end with 15 digs while Ufondu and Dupont both combined for three blocks.
The Baden Invite will continue tomorrow with WashU leading things off against Adrian at 9:30 a.m., with matches also scheduled in the afternoon versus Rose-Hulman and Edgewood. Be sure to stay up to date on all your Bears scores and awards by following @WashUBears on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.