Washington University 3, La Verne 0Â

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Bears Advance to National Championship Match for 11th Time

Rochester, Minn., November 26, 2004 --- The same two teams, same scenario and, yes, the same result. Washington Universitys fourth-ranked volleyball team swept past third-ranked University of La Verne, 3-0, Friday night in the NCAA Division III Semifinals. WU and La Verne met in last years semifinal round, when the Bears also prevailed 3-0. With the win, Washington U. improves to 32-6 overall and advances to its 11th championship match; the Bears are in search of their second-straight national title and a Division III-record ninth overall.

This was one of the best matches of the year for us, said WU head coach Rich Luenemann. We played with energy, and we were relaxed and confident at the same time.

WU jumped out to a 5-1 lead and led 13-9 to force a La Verne timeout. Junior middle hitter Megan Houck, Chesterfield, Mo. (Nerinx Hall) paced the Bears with three kills on four swings during that stretch, while sophomore Amy Bommarito, Kirkwood, Mo. (Nerinx Hall) contributed seven digs. WU reeled off five straight points later in the game to take a 22-13 lead, but the Leopards responded with a 5-1 rally to cut the deficit to 24-18 before WU closed out the first 30-35. Houck led the way with seven kills in the opening stanza, while sophomore Whitney Smith, Wichita, Kan. (Wichita East) added four.

It started in warm-ups, Smith said. You could tell by our focus and all the smiles that we were going to have a great match. It is an honor to be in the national championship again.

The Bears continued the pressure in the second frame, jumping out to a 15-8 lead. After a La Verne timeout, WU pushed ahead to a 26-13 advantage and took the second game 30-15 for a 2-0 lead. The Bears limited the Leopards to a .000 hitting percentage through the first two games. Meanwhile, WU hit .259.

In game three, the Leopards showed some fight by scoring five consecutive points for an early 5-1 lead. The Bears whistled for time out and rallied to tie the game at 12-12. Then came a clinic by Smith, who would tally three kills and three blocks (two solo) as the Bears took a 21-16 lead en route to a 30-25 game-three win.

Our goal was to get back in the game as quickly as possible, Luenemann said. Once we did, we felt we could take control of the game and push ahead again.

Houck and Smith led the Bears with 13 kills apiece, while freshman Emilie Walk, Neoga, Ill. (Neoga) added 12 kills and six blocks. Houck chipped in with four blocks and Smith posted a team-best five. Senior Colleen Winter, Manchester, Mo. (Nerinx Hall) registered six kills and a match-high 19 digs. Smith (.476 hitting percentage) and Walk (.407) helped lead the Bears to hit .282 as a squad.

We just went out and played volleyball, Walk said. We had the time of our life out there.

WUs defense corralled 71 digs and 13 total blocks in holding La Verne to a .048 hitting percentage on the night. Senior Amy Kratochvil led the Leopards with 14 kills and two blocks.

It was a team effort, Houck said. I appreciate the way our back row was digging and the way our setter put the ball where it needed to be.

WU returns to action in the national championship match at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27.

-- Courtesy Washington University