Whitewater, Wis., Nov. 10, 2016 – The Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team overcame a 1-2 deficit to defeat Heidelberg University in five sets on Thursday afternoon during the opening round of the NCAA Regionals in the Russell Arena.
The Bears (23-10 Overall) turned the momentum of the match in the fourth set. With Heidelberg (23-10) leading the match and set with a 23-19 score, the Bears mounted a unique comeback. WashU scored the final six points of the fourth set with multiple blocks sparking the Bears comeback. WashU took an early lead in the clincher before pulling out a 15-13 win. Senior Rexi Sheredy led the Bears with a career-high 22 kills. Freshman Chloe Stile tied her season-high 55 assists, which coincidentally came in WashU's five set victory over Heidelberg in the teams' previous matchup this season.
"I knew it was going to be a battle," added head coach Vanessa Walby. "After playing them (Heidelberg) earlier in the season in five sets, I knew it wasn't going to be anything that was 3-0 or settled in four sets. I must say we are getting good at playing in five sets when most teams resent the fifth set."
Freshman Zoe Baxter led the defense with 27 digs, while Sheredy added 15 digs for her 12th double-double of the year. The Bears net defense also came up big for WashU down the stretch. The Red and Green totaled 11 blocks during the match. Sophomore Julianne Malek finished with six blocks including one solo.
WashU 3 - Heidelberg 2 (25-21, 21-25, 14-25, 25-23, 15-13)
WashU followed the strong hitting from sophomore Ifeoma Ufondu and Sheredy to an early 20-14 lead in the first set. The Student Princes rallied to within two points until Malek's kill put the Bears within a point of the first set win. With the Bears leading 24-21, Ufondu ended things with a powerful swing where the ball ricocheted off of a Heidelberg defender.
The second set was closely contested and tied tied at seven apiece before Heidelberg went on a 10-3 run to pull away. Sophomore Natalie Stephanus helped the Bears pull within three points, as she served up three straight aces. Despite the rally WashU fell in the second set 25-21, evening the match at one game apiece.
Heidelberg utilized a 15-5 run in the third set to pull away from the Bears. The Student Princes took a 2-1 match lead.
The Bears and Heidelberg had several long rallies back and forth during the fourth set. WashU found themselves down 10-6 before a timeout and multiple kills from Dupont tightened the score momentarily. After a small run from Heidelberg a solo block and kill from Malek brought the Bears within three points, 16-13. The Student Princes lead grew to four points at 23-19, but WashU rallied to score the next six points of the match to force a decisive fifth set. A kill from Sheredy and two blocks on combos from Dupont, Ufondu and senior Amanda Palucki highlighted the run.
Sheredy helped the Bears even things up at 4-all on an ace during the fifth set when she went to the service line. Heidelberg scored the next point but an attack from Chloe Stile tied things up at five apiece when the ball skipped along the top of the net for several feet before trickling down to find open court. WashU built a three-point lead on a kill from Ufondu and an ace from Stephanus, 9-6. The Bears and Student Princes traded single points back and forth until Heidelberg pulled within one at 11-10. A Bear timeout was followed by a Sheredy kill that caromed off the Berg blocker. Dupont made it consecutive points for the Bears with a kill, giving WashU a 13-10 lead. Dupont ended it with a blast that fell in front of a diving Heidelberg defender.
The Bears will face Bluffton University at 4:30 p.m. on Friday after Bluffton picked up its first NCAA Tournament victory in school history. Be sure to stay up to date on all your Bears scores and awards by following @WashUBears on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.