No. 8 Volleyball Drops Five Set Thriller to Illinois Wesleyan

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

St. Louis, Mo., September 6, 2017 – The No. 8-ranked Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team fell to Illinois Wesleyan in a five set back-and-forth battle on Wednesday evening in the WU Field House.

WashU fell to 2-2 on the year while Illinois Wesleyan picked up its first win of the season, improving to 1-3. The Bears won the first set 25-21 but dropped the next two, 20-25, 16-25 before rallying to force the fifth set with a 25-21 win. WashU ultimately fell in the fifth set 12-15. 

Junior Julianne Malek and sophomore Leila King each recorded 15 kills apiece to lead the Bears. King's 15 kills set a personal-best, while junior Ifeoma Ufondu also reached double figures in kills with 10.

WashU concluded the match with 60 kills compared to Illinois Wesleyan's 56 but also committed 34 attacking errors in the process. The Titans committed 23 errors and outhit the Bears .217 to .149.

The first set saw multiple lead changes as Illinois Wesleyan held a 20-18 lead, but the Bears rallied to score seven of the final eight points and win the opener 25-21. A kill by King began the turnaround while Malek closed the door with two kills of her own.

The Titans once again led 20-18 in the second frame but the Bears were unable to bounce back as the Titans scored a 25-20 win to even the match at one set apiece.

Illinois Wesleyan dominated the third set after the Bears took an early 9-8 lead on a kill by sophomore Abby Selcho. Illinois Wesleyan managed to hold WashU to just seven more points down the stretch while claiming a 2-1 lead with a 25-16 third set victory. 

Despite committing 10 errors in the previous set, WashU bounced back early in the fourth set with a 7-1 edge. The Bears held that lead until a kill by Illinois Wesleyan's Tyler Brown put the Titans ahead 16-15. WashU responded with four of the next six points to force an Illinois Wesleyan timeout. The Red & Green closed the gap with a 25-21 win and sent the match to a fifth set on a kill by freshman Tricia Brown assisted by freshman Alison Almgren-Bell.

The Titans scored the first three points of the decisive set before WashU evened things up at 4-all. Illinois Wesleyan reclaimed control by pushing ahead 10-4 until the Bears narrowed the gap to within one point, 13-12. However, the Titans scored the final two points to claim the match.

The Bears still hold an all-time advantage of 22-6 against Illinois Wesleyan but the Titans have won the past two matches.

Sophomore Zoe Baxter continued her double digit dig streak to 17 matches by totaling 22 while Ufondu contributed 12. In addition to Malek's 15 kills, she also totaled five blocks as WashU totaled 16 block assists. The Bears' attack was paced by Almgren-Bell who finished with 26 assists while sophomore Chloe Stile added 11 and freshman Kirby Knapp tallied nine. 

WashU travels to University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh this weekend for the Pizza Hut Classic. The Bears open the tournament against Saint Mary's (Minn.) at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 8. Be sure to stay up to date on all your Bears scores and awards by following @WashUBears on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.