No. 12 Volleyball Splits Opening Night in Wittenberg

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

Springfield, Ohio, Sept. 15, 2017 – The No. 12-ranked Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team split its opening night at the Wittenberg Fall Classic, defeating Heidelberg University 3-0 in the nightcap after falling 3-1 to Ohio Northern University in the tournament opener. 

After the 1-1 record Friday evening, WashU possesses a 6-4 mark on the season while Ohio Northern improved to 8-2 after the match and Heidelberg fell to 5-6. After the Bears were held to their second lowest hitting percentage on the season against Ohio Northern they responded by nearly cutting their errors in half against the Student Princes.

Match 1: Ohio Northern 3 – WashU 1 (19-25, 26-24, 21-25, 16-25) 

Junior captain Ifeoma Ufondu posted a match-high 15 kills, but the the Polar Bears had three attackers reach double figures in kills. Freshman Kirby Knapp completed her first career double-double when she registered 34 assists with an additional 12 digs.

Defensively the Bears were led by sophomore Zoe Baxter, who added to her streak of double figures in digs with a season-high 24. Junior Natalie Stephanus also contributed 13 digs, while sophomore Leila King totaled five blocks including one solo.

WashU quickly built an 8-4 lead in the first set, but four straight points by the Polar Bears evened things up. The score remained close until Ohio Northern scored nine of the final 10 points to win the opener 25-19.

The Bears once again built an early lead which held true for the majority of the second set until Ohio Northern evened things up at 23-all. WashU secured the 26-24 set victory on a block by King.

Ohio Northern scored the third set's first five points and despite the Bears pulling with two points on a service ace by Stephanus, 16-14, the Polar Bears closed out the 25-21 win.

The final set belonged to Ohio Northern from the start as WashU only momentarily held a 5-4 lead. The Bears were unable to close the gap any closer than two points after they lost the lead. Ohio Northern won the set 25-16 and the match 3-1.

Match 2: WashU 3 – Heidelberg 0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-22)

Ufondu once again led the Bears with 10 kills, while junior middle hitter Julianne Malek contributed five kills on seven attempts for a .714 hitting percentage. Freshman Tricia Brown nearly reached double figures in kills for the first time in her career with a season-high nine. Junior Lauren Martin also tallied six kills with a single error in 17 attempts.

The offense was paced by Knapp with 14 assists, while Baxter added a career-high nine assists. Baxter also led the defense with 18 digs as Knapp fell short of her second double-double of the day with nine digs.

The first set included four lead changes which involved a 6-1 run down the stretch to help WashU pull ahead 20-18 on back-to-back aces by Knapp. King kept the Bears ahead with a solo block, after Heidelberg evened things up. The Bears closed out the set with multiple errors committed by the Student Princes.

WashU cruised to an early 12-3 lead behind the service of Stephanus and Malek who both had aces on the run. Heidelberg used a 20-12 run of its own to pull within a single point with WashU leading 24-23, but the Bears emerged victorious in the second set win 25-23 on a kill by Brown.

A four-point lead was the most that separated WashU and Heidelberg for the majority of the third set until the Student Princes evened the score at 22-22. However, the Bears scored the final three points including a tandem block by Malek and Martin to close out the scoring at 25-22 and notch the match victory for WashU.

The Bears will square off against tournament-host and No. 3-ranked Wittenberg (7-0) at 12 p.m. (ET). Be sure to stay up to date on all your Bears scores and awards by following @WashUBears on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.