Bloomington, Ill. Sept. 7, 2016- In a battle of two nationally ranked volleyball programs, Washington University in St. Louis fell in four sets after getting stunned in the third set to No. 21 Illinois Wesleyan in the Shirk Center Wednesday evening.
WashU (4-2 Overall) fell to the Titans in four sets by the scores of 22-25, 25-22, 24-26 and 11-25. The Bears appeared deflated after the Titans rallied back in the third set when WashU was a single point away from victory. However No. 21 ranked team in the country scored the final eight points of the set to shock the Bears and pull out an upset victory.
The Bears were at a slight disadvantage in the errors department committing 36 total in comparison of the Titans 31. The Titans fed off the energy of the crowd and an eight point swing in the third set for the win.
Set 1: Illinois Wesleyan 25 – WashU 22
WashU held an early 9-8 lead but fell behind a few plays after, until a kill from Abby Selcho and a Titan error tied things up at 11-all. The Titans scored the next seven points to take a commanding 18-11 lead, but the Bears fought through the hostile visitor territory to tighten things up.
Julianne Malek stopped Illinois Wesleyan's run with a kill of her own before Chloe Stile found a gap in the Titans defense with an ace. The Bears closed the gap to within one with the score 22-21 but the Titans scored a first set victory by scoring three of the next four points.
Set 2: WashU 25 – Illinois Wesleyan 22
Despite an opening service error WashU came out of the gate with a greater sense of urgency. The Bears front line was strong at the net blocking several shots early on and hitting the ball with such ferocity to take a 10-6 lead.
Amanda Palucki and Julianne Malek had a stellar performance in the second set totaling eight kills in helping WashU to an 18-11 advantage. Ifeoma Ufondu and Caroline Dupont's presence at the net cannot be understated as the two were a constant thorn in the Titans side. They disrupted multiple attacks both on the block and on the floor.
The Bears held a commanding 23-14 lead, but four straight points led to a WashU timeout. The Titans continued to close the gap until a misfire brought the Bears within a single point of set two's victory. Palucki crushed the ball that deflected off a Titans defender to help the Bears even up the games at one apiece.
Set 3: Illinois Wesleyan 26 – WashU 24
Natalie Stephanus helped the Green and Red gain momentum in the third set. She led the team on a seven point run on top of its 9-7 lead. She had an ace which was helped by Sheredy's kill and a block from Dupont and Selcho.
Palucki and Sheredy both finished with kills down the stretch to help the Bears to a 22-15 advantage. However the nationally ranked Titans refused to give in playing tremendous defense.
Savannah Zhang fed Malek a beautiful pass in the center which Malek delicately placed over the outstretched hands on the block. Zhang's crafty attack on just the Bears second hit caught Illinois off guard and put the Bears within a single point of victory, 24-18.
However the Titans rallied to score the next eight points, shocking the Bears with a set three victory.
Set 4: Illinois Wesleyan 25 – WashU 11
The Titans carried the momentum of set three over but WashU continued fighting despite a nine point deficit early on. A great dig from Stephanus and set from Ufondu to Sheredy on the back line looked like it might swing the momentum back towards WashU's side.
The Titans responded though with two points of their own to jump ahead 15-5 before the Bears talked things over after a timeout. The two teams maintained the 10 point difference with the score at 20-10 but Illinois closed the match out with five of the next six points.
Sheredy led WashU with 15 kills while Palucki added 12 as they were routinely set up by Zhang, who finished with 33 assists. Stephanus led the team defensively with 23 digs, while Dupont finished with five total blocks.
WashU next travels to Thousand Oaks, Calif. for the Cal Lu Tournament. The Bears begin the tournament with a match against La Verne at 12:30 p.m. Be sure to stay up to date on all your Bears scores and awards by following @WashUBears on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.