Chicago, Ill., Nov. 9, 2018 – The No. 13-ranked Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team followed senior middle hitter Julianne Malek's lead in a 3-0 NCAA Division III First Round victory over Cornell (Iowa) College Friday afternoon in Chicago.
The Bears improved to 26-7 on the season with the victory while dropping Cornell to 18-10. WashU finished the match with a .281 hitting percentage, led by Malek. She totaled 16 kills on 22 attempts without an error en route to posting a .727 hitting percentage, the second best hitting percentage in school NCAA Tournament history of any player totaling 15 or more kills. Nikki Morrison posted a .750 hitting percentage during a 3-0 win on Nov. 10, 2006 against Capital University.
"Cornell has always played us very well," said head coach Vanessa Walby. "Last year we split with them and this year they've take a lot of teams five sets. They've really pushed a lot of teams and other programs. For us it was just trying to find our comfort to catch our rhythm."
In WashU's 32nd consecutive appearance in the DIII Tournament the Bears have cumulated a 104-22 record. WashU tied Juniata College (104-43) for the most NCAA Tournament wins in Division III history. The Eagles play at 7 p.m. in a first round matchup with Notre Dame (Maryland) University.
"The situation that we are in every match as we progress is going to get more and more competitive and it is really exciting to ride that wave," said senior outside hitter Ifeoma Ufondu. "We set a good foundation with this match getting out there playing hard and aggressive volleyball."
The Bears will play Saturday, Nov. 10 at 2:30 p.m. against No. 11 Illinois Wesleyan University (26-5) who defeated California Lutheran University (18-12) 3-0 Friday afternoon.
"It is amazing that we have the first match of the day because we have the opportunity to scout and get a feel for the team that we're going to play tomorrow," said junior libero Zoe Baxter.
Set 1: WashU 25 – Cornell 13
Malek and Ufondu led the Bears attack with five kills apiece as the Bears finished the first set with a .360 hitting percentage. Malek was a perfect five-of-five while Ufondu converted five of her eight attempts.
The Bears overcame a 9-7 deficit in the first set with eight straight points to take the lead. Baxter had two aces on the run, while Malek had two kills to go along with a kill by freshman Michaela Bach.
Set 2: WashU 26 – Cornell 24
The second set proved to be the most competitive of the match. Cornell took a 24-22 advantage and was a single point away from evening the match at one set apiece. The Bears senior All-Region honorees stepped up as Ufondu converted an attack to cut the Rams lead to one point. Malek followed the kill by scoring the final three points of the set to complete the comeback and give WashU a 2-0 advantage.
Malek finished with seven kills in the set while junior right side hitter Hannah Turner contributed five kills without an error on 11 attempts. Baxter tallied seven digs in the set. Sophomore setter Kirby Knapp also added a key kill to help the Bears even the score momentarily at 22-22, assisted by senior defensive specialist Natalie Stephanus.
Set 3: WashU 25 – Cornell 14
Three consecutive points by the Bears resulted in a Rams timeout as WashU pulled ahead 9-6. The Red & Green continued to separate from Cornell before three straight Ram points forced a Bears timeout with the score 16-12.
WashU responded to the tune of three straight kills and ultimately closed out the match on a 9-2 run with Ufondu claiming the final kill that propelled the Bears to the second round.
Malek posted the second flawless set of the match, recording four kills on four attempts while junior middle hitter Leila King added four kills on eight attempts. Turner tallied three of her four service aces on the match during the third set.
Baxter recorded five digs and finished the match with a match-high 15 digs. She is five digs shy of tying Amy Bommarito (2003-06) for third place all-time in school history with 1,698 digs.
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