Dec. 5, 2008

Courtesy SLUbillikens.com

LEXINGTON, Ky. - For just the third time this season, 13th seeded Saint Louis played a five-set match but the outcome was a loss for the first time, and that defeat spelled the end of the Billikens' record-breaking season as they fell to Michigan 25-22, 19-25, 25-23, 20-25, 12-15 in the second round of NCAA Tournament action at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky. on Friday evening. No. 21 SLU completed its season with a 29-5 record after suffering its first in the last 22 matches. The Wolverines improved to 26-8 and move on to the Seattle Regional semifinals next weekend.

Bridget Fonke turned in career and match highs of 26 kills and 25 digs. Sammi McCloud trailed with 18 kills, 16 digs and five service aces, while Megan Boken contributued 12 kills and 18 digs. Whitney Roth also finished with a double-double of 53 assists and 10 digs. Whitney Behrens also chipped in 17 digs. SLU recorded a season-high 12 aces in the match.

In the opening set, the Wolverines extended their lead to as many as five points at 12-7 before the Billikens came roaring back. McCloud started a Saint Louis rally with a kill. She then served a pair of aces around a Fonke kill to tie the set at 13-13. However, UM prevented SLU from taking the lead with a kill on an overpass by the Billikens. After being down 20-18, Saint Louis earned its first lead on consecutive kills from McCloud, Boken and Lauren Christman. Those three kills were the start of a 6-0 run that pushed the Bills' lead to 24-20. A service error on set point gave Michigan a chance to catch up, and it trimmed the margin to two on a SLU hitting error but Boken put a ball away to give SLU a one-set advantage. SLU hit .326, while UM hit at a .325 clip. Fonke led all players with six kills and eight digs, while Boken and Michigan's Beth Karpiak had five kills apiece.

Michigan controlled the tempo in the second set, running out to a lead of as many as five points early on. Karpiak gave the Bills fits on defense, scoring on four kills early. Saint Louis closed the gap to 13-11 on a Fonke kill and double block by McCloud and Sally Warning. But Michigan responded with a 6-0 run to push its lead back out to eight points at 19-11. McCloud and Fonke tried to keep the Billikens in the set with three kills each late in the set, but SLU was unable to get any closer than five points the rest of the way as the Wolverines hit at a .421 clip to SLU's .239. Fonke, who had a double-double by the completion of the second set, and Karpiak each posted a set-high six kills.

The Billikens earned the early lead in the third set after scoring five straight points to lead 7-3. Michigan continued to chip away at the lead, using a 4-0 spurt of its own to gain the 9-8 edge. The teams endured a couple ties before the Wolverines pushed ahead on a pair of SLU hitting errors. Saint Louis knotted the score at 13-13 and 14-14 but UM scored three straight points to go up 17-14. The Bills close to within a point three times before they managed to tie the score at 21-21 on an ace from Behrens. Fonke's kill gave Saint Louis its first advantage at 22-21 since it led 10-9. Megan Bower's kill knotted the set at 22-22 before Fonke scored on a kill and Roth served an ace to earn set point. A double block by UM gave SLU another shot at set point, and the Bills earned the win on a Wolverine hitting error. Bower led all players with seven kills, and Fonke trailed with a team-high five for SLU.

The Wolverines broke a 1-1 tie with six straight points, including two kills apiece from Karpiak and Alex Hunt, for a 7-1 lead in fourth set. Saint Louis scored eight of the next 10 points to knot the score at 9-9. But UM ran back out to a 15-10 lead on a block and a pair of Billiken hitting errors. SLU cut the deficit to one on two occasions but could not forge the tie as Michigan earned the win to knot the match at two sets apiece. Fonke (six) and McCloud (two) were the only Billikens with kills in the fourth set as SLU hit just .027 to the Wolverines' .278 clip.

Saint Louis took control of the fifth set with consecutive points on kills from McCloud and Boken for a 5-2 edge. The Bills stayed up by two points until Michigan scored back-to-back points on a Bower kill and a double block to trim the lead to one at 7-6. A UM service error and a Roth kill gave SLU a 9-6 lead, but Michigan came right back with consecutive points on a kill, a SLU hitting error and a service ace to make it 9-9. The Billikens immediately went back up by two before a pair of Michigan kills and an ace gave the Wolverines a 12-11 edge. UM scored three of the last four points to capture the win.