No.4 Washington-St. Louis Take Down No. 1 Emory for UAA Crown


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ST. LOUIS, Mo. - The No. 4 Washington University volleyball team held off No. 1 Emory University, 3-2, to capture the 2008 University Athletic Association (UAA) Championship at the WU Field House in St. Louis, Mo., on Saturday afternoon. With the win, Washington U. gains the UAA's automatic berth into the 2008 NCAA Division III Championship tournament.

The UAA title is the Bears' 19th in school history, and the team's third over the past five seasons. In what has become one of the most spirited rivalries in Division III volleyball because the two perennial national powers both hail from the UAA, Washington U. and Emory have met to decided each of the last five UAA titles, and routinely face each other multiple times each season. Saturday's win for Washington University avenged a 3-1 loss it suffered to Emory on Oct. 18, in Waltham, Mass.

Like she has been doing all season, senior right side Nikki Morrison powered the Washington U. attack against Emory, leading the team with 14 kills and an attack percentage of .423 against one of the nation's top teams.

The Bears got off to a fast start in the first set, jumping ahead 5-1 before Emory came back to tie the score at 14-14. An attack error by the Eagles' Dani Huffman put Washington U. back in front by one, and in succession a kill from freshman outside hitter Kristen Thomas, then Morrison and an ace by senior setter Audra Janak pushed the WU lead to 20-16, and the Red and Green won the frame, 25-18.

Although statistically speaking the Bears had their best offensive set of the match in the second, tallying 15 kills and hitting .250, Emory pulled out a 26-24 win to knot the match at 1-1.

Emory did not do much with their momentum changing second-set win, committing several errors, especially in serve-receive, to allow the Bears to take a 2-1 lead in the match with a commanding 25-13 win in the third set. Washington University had four aces in the third frame, and 14 in the match, a season-high for the team that on the year has 78 more serving errors than aces. That season-long trend had no impact on Washington U. on Saturday, as the Red and Green recorded six more aces than errors.

A late 10-4 scoring run broke up what began as a competitive fourth set, to give Emory a 25-19 win and send the match into the deciding fifth frame. Washington University truly showed its mettle in the fifth set, erasing Eagle leads of three and four points. Down 7-3 in the early going, WU came back as freshman middle hitter Erin Kasson and senior outside hitter Alli Alberts combined for a block to finish a 4-0 run and tie the score.

Coming out of a timeout, Emory surged right back to grab what could have been a commanding 10-7 lead, but once again Washington U. fought back. A heady move by Janak, punching the ball off an EU blocker, to finish an attack opportunity created by an athletic Tricia Brandt dig tied the score once again, 11-11, and the Bears went on to take four of the next five points.

Thomas and junior Erin Albers also recorded double-digit kills, with 12 and 11 respectively. Junior libero Laura Brazeal and Alberts each eclipsed 20 digs, with 24-20. It was thanks in large part to tremendous defensive play from Brazeal, Alberts and Brandt (14 digs) the Bears were able to pull out the win.

Morrison guided the Bears past the UAA's No. 3 seed, Carnegie Mellon University, earlier in the day. In a match were the WU offense struggled a bit with attacking errors, Morrison tallied a season-high 19 kills to just two errors, Hitting an astounding .548 in the 3-1 Washington U. win.

The Bears let a six-point (21-15) lead slip away in the first set with the Tartans, who came back to snatch a 27-25 win and grab a 1-0 lead in the match. Morrison, who had a team-high six kills in the first frame continued her strong play in the second frame, adding six more kills in leading the Red and Green to a 25-20 win.

Having seized the momentum, WU jumped out to an 11-4 lead in the third set behind three kills from senior outside hitter Ali Crouch, forcing a Carnegie Mellon timeout. The break in the action did not deter the Red and Green who scored six more unanswered points to lead 18-4 before the Tartans broke the scoring run. The fourth set was similar to the third, Washington University came out strong, leading 14-5, and went on to post a 14-5 win behind four kills from Alberts.

Washington University hit .252 in the win, with Alberts, 11 kills, and Crouch, 10 kills, also reaching the double-digit kill plateau. Janak notched 46 assists with 15 digs and six kills, and the Bears recorded 12 team blocks in the win.

Washington University will find out its NCAA fate when the NCAA announced the 2008 Championship bracket on Monday, Nov. 10. The NCAA has already determined the eight regional sites, and the winner of each regional will advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals, held in Bloomington, Ill.

Article courtesy of Washington-St. Louis athletics.

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