Bloomington, Ill., Nov. 9, 2017 – In a rematch of the 2016 NCAA Division III National Championship match, No. 13-ranked Washington University in St. Louis volleyball valiantly fought to the fifth set but ultimately fell to No. 2-ranked Calvin College in the opening round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at the Shirk Center on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan University.
WashU concluded its season with a 24-10 record while Calvin improved to 27-3. The Bears have fell to the Knights in consecutive seasons in NCAA play and are 9-3 all-time against Calvin. WashU is 103-22 all-time in NCAA Tournament action.
"It's a testament to the women on our team to battle back against Calvin," said head coach Vanessa Walby. "To fight our way back from 0-2 deficit against a team of that caliber is extremely difficult."
Calvin took the early lead in the first set but WashU rallied to lead 6-5 on a kill by junior Ifeoma Ufondu. The Knights scored four consecutive points to take a 9-6 advantage and carried the momentum to a 25-16 first set victory.
"When you're already down two sets, there is nothing to lose so you might as well go out and give it your all," said Malek. "That's what we did to get back in the match."
Ufondu helped the Bears out to a nine-point advantage in the third set with three kills, as WashU built a 20-11 lead. The Knights fought back into the set by trimming the lead to four, 24-20, but a service error ended the rally as WashU claimed the set 25-20.
"Some of our strongest competition comes during practice against really great hitters like Foam (Ufondu) and J (Malek)," shared senior Lauren Fournier. "When you go into a match after practicing against players like that you feel ready."
The Bears and Knights traded single points for much of the fourth set until four straight WashU points gave the Bears a 17-15 edge. Malek helped close out the set with three kills as the set point came on a kill by King.
The fifth set had four lead changes, as Brown led the Bears to a 4-0 advantage at the service line. Calvin tied the set up on a 4-0 run of its own. A kill from Ufondu and an ace by Malek helped the Bears take a 7-4 advantage before the Knights scored five consecutive points. WashU scored seven of the next eight points, but Calvin scored the matches final six points to claim victory.