No. 3 Volleyball Splits Opening Night Matches

Photo by WUSTL Photos/Danny Reise
Photo by WUSTL Photos/Danny Reise

St. Louis, Mo., September 1, 2017 – The No. 3-ranked Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team split its opening matches in the WU Field House on Friday evening, first defeating Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in straight sets before falling to Cornell College 3-1.

WashU begins the season with a 1-1 mark, while Rose-Hulman concluded the day with a 1-1 record and Cornell finished the night with an unblemished 2-0 mark. Juniors Julianne Malek and Ifeoma Ufondu both reached double figure kill totals in both matches while sophomore Zoe Baxter tallied 32 digs.

Match 1: WashU 3 – Rose-Hulman 0 (25-19, 31-29, 27-25)

The Bears' collectively totaled a hitting percentage of .241 compared to the Fightin' Engineers .081 clip. Freshman Tricia Brown led WashU with a .556 hitting percentage as she totaled six kills in nine attempts.

Malek and freshman Rachel Rhyner scored the initial point of the Bears' 2017 season by combining for a block and the Bears quickly built a five-point lead behind the service of senior Lauren Fournier. Sophomore Hannah Turner closed out the 25-19 set with a kill assisted by sophomore Chloe Stile.

The second set was neck-in-neck as both teams traded leads. Rose-Hulman held the advantage at 29-28, just needing a single point to even the match up at one game apiece but a kill from Malek tied things up before a block by sophomore Leila King and Ufondu put WashU ahead 30-29. The Bears' took the distinct 2-0 match advantage on a kill by Ufondu.

The Bears and Fightin' Engineers once again battled into extra points in the third set with Rose-Hulman taking the first lead at 25-24 before Ufondu evened things up. Back-to-back errors ended the set and etched the first victory into WashU's 2017 schedule.

Stile ended the match with 32 assists while the Bears defense combined for 69 digs and 26 block assists. Baxter led the group with 19 digs as Ufondu assisted on seven blocks.

Match 2: Cornell 3 – WashU 1 (25-27, 21-25, 25-20, 20-25)

Malek and Ufondu led the Bears with 13 kills apiece. Malek produced all 13 kills without a single error finishing with a hitting percentage of .591.

Freshman Kirby Knapp paced the Bears offense with 21 assists while fellow freshman Alison Almgren-Bell added 10 assists.

WashU fell behind early in the first set before evening things at 25-all on a kill by Malek. However, an attacking error and service ace gave Cornell the early 1-0 edge with a 27-25 win.

Cornell nursed a steady one-point lead through much of the second set before scoring three straight points to score a 25-21 victory.

The third set turned in the Bears' favor on a five-point swing when WashU took a 12-7 lead. Turner had two kills and two block assists during the run, helping WashU to a 25-20 third set victory.

The Rams utilized a four-point run late in the fourth set to close out the match and hand the Bears their first loss of the season. 

In addition to Malek's team leading 13 kills and .591 hitting percentage she also produced two solo blocks as well as assisting on six others.

The Bears will square off against #15 Hope College Saturday, Sept. 2 at 2:30 p.m. in the WU Field House to conclude the Bear Invitational. Be sure to stay up to date on all your Bears scores and awards by following @WashUBears on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.