Springfield, Ohio, Sept. 16, 2016 – The No. 19 Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team showed grit, overcoming a 0-2 hole against No. 5 Juniata College rallying to secure an upset 3-2 victory over the Eagles at the Wittenberg Invitational. The Bears fell in its second match of the day to Elmhurst, ranked No. 22 in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll.
WashU (6-6 Overall) secured its first victory over a nationally ranked opponent on the season with the rally against Juniata (6-2 Overall). The victory was followed by a sweep of the Bears against No. 22 Elmhurst (6-3 Overall).
Match 1: WashU 3 – Juniata 2 (19-25, 16-25, 25-17, 30-28, 15-13)
Freshman Zoe Baxter played an important role in the Bears come from behind victory, filling in as the libero in sets three through five. The first year player finished with 20 digs, including 15 in WashU's set victories.
Also stepping up for the Bears was Shannon Gurley, another first year student-athlete. The Phoenix, Ariz – native totaled 16 kills to lead the Bears during the first match.
WashU fell behind early in the match. During the first two sets the Bears totaled 12 errors compared compared to 17 kills.
The unit looked sharp as it swung to the tune of a .407 hitting percentage, committing zero errors to 11 kills during the third match swinging set.
The Bears fell behind 6-3 to open the third set before chipping away at the Eagles lead. An ace from sophomore Loren Shin pushed the lead to Bears favor and WashU never looked back, with a 16-14 advantage.
WashU pulled away down the stretch. Lauren Fournier aced a ball and Gurley added a kill on a set from Julianne Malek. An error from the Eagles put the Bears on the winning side, closing out the set 25-17.
The Bears persevered to emerge on top with an extra point set four win in back-and-forth action.
WashU trailed 21-19 before a few Eagles errors mixed with two kills by Gurley sparked the Bears comeback. The Bears took the lead on a kill from senior middle hitter Caroline Dupont but the two teams were unable to take a two point advantage down the stretch until WashU closed out the scoring with kills from Rexi Sheredy and Dupont.
The Bears carried their momentum into the fifth and decisive set claiming a 6-3 advantage early on behind some great strikes from Ifeoma Ufondu. The match was far from over as the Eagles put together their own run, pulling ahead 10-9.
The Red & Green went on their own run behind Dupont and Gurley kills paired with Chloe Stile's ace. The Bears led 14-11 after Stile's ace. The victory was secured on a service error by the Eagles..
Gurley and Dupont exceeded 20 kills combined, while Gurley set a new career high of 16 with Dupont contributing 11 total. Stile set her career best with 39 assists to pace the offense.
Baxter led the group with 20 digs while Sheredy and Stile also finished with a large volume of digs, 14 and 13 respectively.
Match 2: No. 22 Elmhurst 3 – No. 19 WashU 0 (21-25, 30-32, 20-25)
The Bears totaled 46 kills but WashU negated 26 of those points with errors.
Dupont finished the match with an impressive .476 hitting percentage on 12 kills from 21 attempts. Gurley and Ufondu had a large number of kills for the Bears, combining for 21.
Defensively WashU totaled 65 digs of which 39 came from Baxter, Sheredy and Shin. Ufondu was able to get the first two blocks of the tournament for the Bears.
The Blue Jays, who fell earlier in the day to WashU's afternoon competition tomorrow – No. 1 California Lutheran, rallied for five straight points to take the lead and eventual game one victory.
In its second extra point set of the night, WashU found itself on the wrong end this time. WashU claimed a 26-25 advantage, putting itself within a single point of tying the match at one game apiece, however an error erased that chance. The two teams traded multiple points until the Blue Jays closed out the scoring with two straight kills.
In the third and final set of day one at Wittenberg, Gurley nearly brought the team back from a hole late in the match. The freshman tallied three kills in a seven-point swing which put the Bears ahead 20-18. But the Bears sealed their fate with five errors in the final run by the Blue Jays to close the match.
WashU opens up the day tomorrow with another contest in Springfield, Ohio facing Heidelberg at 11 a.m. (EDT). The Bears will then square off against No. 1 Cal Lu, which has continued its dominant run dating back to last season's national championship. Be sure to stay up to date on all your Bears scores and awards by following @WashUBears on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.