Sept. 11, 2010

Courtesy of Washington U. St. Louis Athletics

St. Louis, Mo. – Although the competition was tougher, the end result was the same, as the No. 1 Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team improved to 10-0 following a pair of 3-0 victories of top-10 opponents on Saturday, Sept. 11, at the Washington University/Asics National Invitational in St. Louis, Mo.


The Bears opened the day by picking up a 3-0 win over No. 9 Ohio Northern University (25-16, 25-21, 25-17) and completed the tournament by beating No. 7 Wittenberg University by the same score (25-23, 25-23, 25-17).
Washington U. finished the tournament with a perfect 4-0 record, and the Red and Green won all 12 sets they played. As a result, the Bears landed three players on the WU/Asics National Invitational All-Tournament Team: sophomore setter Marilee Fisher, sophomore libero Kelly Pang and freshman outside hitter Meghan Byrne.


While Fisher did an efficient job running the offense, finishing the weekend with 141 assists, she also made important contributions defensively, tallying 26 digs and on multiple occasions making tough plays to prolong WU rallies. Pang averaged better than six digs per set and finished the weekend with 73 digs, including 27 in a win over No. 10 Carthage College on Friday night.


Byrne experienced a breakout performance in the front row, leading the WUSTL attack with 45 kills over four matches, an average of 4.09 per set, while hitting .349 in the process. She saved her strongest performance for the tournament championship match against Wittenberg, where she scored 18 times with no errors, for a hitting percentage of .514.
The Bears came perilously close to dropping the opening set with Wittenberg, but erased a seven-point deficit to come away with a two-point win. The Red and Green trailed, 13-6, early in the match, but steadily cut into the Tiger lead, eventually tying the set at 20-20 on an ace from freshman Tessa Blood.


Following a Wittenberg timeout, the Bears finally regained the lead when Fisher and freshman middle hitter Emily Tulloch blocked down an attack, and kills from junior middle hitter Lauren Budde and Byrne (her eighth of the opening set) put Washington U. ahead for good.


The second set was as tight as the first, but lacked a major momentum shift. The Bears were trailing late in the frame but again came back to take the lead and it was Byrne leading the late charge, scoring on back-to-back plays to put her team up by three, 23-20. Four more kills from Byrne, and three from Budde, along with a strong serving game, led to the eight-point third set victory.


In addition to Byrne’s 18-kill performance against Wittenberg, Budde tallied 10 kills and Blood finished with seven. Pang had 12 digs, while Fisher notched 28 assists and seven digs.
The Bears received big contributions from Fisher, Budde and Byrne in the sweep over Ohio Northern on Saturday morning. Hitting .360 in the win, Byrne led the offense with 11 kills. Budde had eight kills to go along with four aces and five digs, while Fisher tallied 27 assists, eight digs and four aces. The Bears served up 12 aces as a team against the ninth-ranked Polar Bears.


Budde, Byrne and sophomore middle hitter Madeleine Shroyer each finished with three kills in the nine-point opening-set victory. Byrne added four more kills and Pang had six digs in a tightly contested second set, and the Bears ran out to an 11-1 lead in the third, en route to a 25-17 win to finish the match. Byrne and Blood each had four kills in the final set.


Washington U. (10-0) returns to action next weekend when it hits the road for the first time this season. The Bears will travel to Greencastle, Ind., to compete in the DePauw University Invitational from Friday-Saturday, Sept. 17-18.
Washington University opens tournament action on Friday afternoon against Hanover College at 4 p.m. (ET), and will face Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology at 8 p.m. However, the highlight of the weekend will come on Saturday morning, when the Bears face No. 2 Juniata College in a rematch of the 2009 national championship, won by Washington U., 3-1.