Dec. 6, 2008

Courtesy of Western Michigan

DAYTON, Ohio -- None of the current members on the team had even been born the last time Western Michigan won two matches in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament. On Saturday night at the Frericks Center at the University of Dayton, the 2008 Western Michigan volleyball team defeated No. 16 Tulane 20-25, 25-21, 13-25, 25-19, 15-12 in front of 609 fans in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament. Western Michigan will play defending national champion and No. 1 Penn State on Friday, Dec. 12.

The Broncos (28-6) advance to their fifth Sweet Sixteen in school history, but the first time since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1998. Furthermore, this is only the second time in school history and first time since 1983 that Western Michigan has won two matches in the NCAA Tournament. This is the first trip to the Sweet Sixteen since 1987.

The win over Tulane (28-6), the Conference USA regular season and tournament champions, snapped their 17-match winning streak.

The Broncos were led by MAC Setter of the Year Jillian Mitchell with her first career triple-double of 45 assists, career-high 11 kills and 11 digs. She joins current Montana State assistant coach Jen Sulewski as the only players to ever notch a triple-double and it is the third in school history. Mitchell set an offense that saw four players join her in double figures. Junior Katie Eberling notched her 46th career double-double with 15 kills, hitting .368, and 13 digs.

Junior Michelle Moore added 14 kills and 12 digs to pull within three kills of Kim Lee's career record (1,451). Sophomore Allyson Doyle added 12 kills, nine digs, six assists, three aces and two blocks, while sophomore Kate Corbett had 10 kills, hitting .450, and four blocks.

Two-time MAC Defensive Player of the Year Caitlin Strimel led the team with 15 digs as WMU tied Tulane (28-6) with 64 digs.

Both teams were efficient in the attack as WMU hit .333 with 63 kills and 12 errors, while Tulane hit .307 with 68 kills and 18 errors. Both teams were also aggressive at the service line. Western Michigan had nine aces and eight errors, while the Green Wave notched 11 aces and five errors. The Broncos did a better job at the net with seven blocks to just 2.5 for Tulane.

After suffering their worst loss in a set all year in the third, WMU battled back to win the fourth and force a decisive fifth set. WMU was 4-2 in five-setters, while the Green Wave was 6-1 in five-set matches entering the match.

Kills by Eberling and Doyle opened the scoring for WMU, but Tulane came back with three straight to take the lead. The teams then traded points and were knotted at five after a kill by Tulane. The Broncos won the next two points on back-to-back kills by Moore and then Eberling added a kill. Moore and Jaime Gotham stuffed Tulane on the next point and Strimel added her 119th career ace to make it 10-5 WMU. Tulane scored the next two points, but a kill by Mitchell put WMU back up four, 11-7. Eberling hammered home another kill to give WMU match point, 14-11. Tulane fought one off, but then Mitchell deftly flicked the ball over her shoulder and found the floor to send WMU streaming onto the court and into the Sweet Sixteen.

WMU hit .346 with 12 kills in the fifth set and held Tulane to .185 with seven kills. Eberling picked up five kills in the fifth set and Mitchell had seven digs to reach her triple-double.

It appeared early jitters affected Western Michigan again in the first set with a ball-handling error and two consecutive aces for Tulane to start, 3-0. The Green Wave still led by three, 6-3, after another ace, when WMU answered with a 4-0 run capped off by a block from Corbett and Mitchell and an ace from Moore. After back-to-back kills by Corbett and Mitchell, WMU had its largest lead, 11-8, but Tulane retook the lead at 14-13. The Broncos scored three-straight with kills from Doyle and Corbett followed by a block from Corbett and Eberling to go back up two, 17-15. The Green Wave came back again to go up 19-18, but back-to-back kills from Corbett and Mitchell put WMU on top with the fifth lead change of the set, 20-19. The Green Wave had the final run by picking up four-straight kills and then two WMU attack errors to end the set on a 6-0 run, 25-20.

WMU hit .235 with 11 kills, five by the setter, Mitchell, which led all players. Tulane hit .270 with 14 kills and five service aces.

The Broncos came out fast to start the second set with a kill  by Doyle and ace from Mitchell to open up 3-0. Tulane came back to even the score at five, but WMU rattled off four straight with a kill from Corbett, Doyle ace, Eberling kill and block by Corbett and Mitchell. The Green Wave wouldn't go away and evened the match again at 12, but kills by Moore and Eberling put WMU back up two. Tulane had kills of its own with two consecutive to knot the score again. Two more kills from Eberling around an attack error by the Green Wave was part of a 5-1 run that included a kill and ace from Doyle to go up 19-15. Tulane cut the score to two, 20-18, but Corbett hammered a kill to put WMU back up three. Tulane made one more charge with back-to-back kills to pull within one, 21-20. Mitchell dumped the ball over to end the run and then picked up an ace and another kill to end the second set, 25-21.

Mitchell had three more kills in the second set to tie her career high with eight kills. After no kills in the first set, Eberling picked up seven kills in 13 swings in the second set. The Broncos hit .459 with 17 kills and no errors, while Tulane hit .342 with 17 kills and four errors. The Broncos also added four service aces in the second set with two each from Mitchell and Doyle.

The Green Wave crested in the third set as it was all Tulane. The Broncos held three one-point leads in the early going, but Tulane took over with an 11-4 run that gave them a seven-point lead, 15-8. A kill by Doyle and block by Doyle and Gotham pulled WMU within five, but Tulane closed the set on a 10-3 run to hand WMU its most-lopsided loss in a set this season.

Tulane hit .538 with 16 kills and only two errors, in addition to two more service aces. The Broncos hit .192 with only nine kills and four errors.

The Broncos were determined to send the match to a fifth set and started the fourth set with a 9-3 run, including four Green Wave attack errors and one service error. Tulane made a 5-1 run of its own to pull within two, 10-8, but WMU answered with another run. The Broncos went on a 10-4 run to go up by eight, 20-12, highlighted by a big solo block from Mitchell against the Conference USA Player of the Year, Sara Radosevic. Tulane scored four-straight points to get back to within four, 20-16, but back-to-back kills from Eberling and Doyle gave WMU a cushion and they ended the set playing sideout volleyball, 25-19.

The Broncos hit .400 with 14 kills and two errors, while Tulane hit .229 with 14 kills and six errors. Doyle led WMU with eight kills, while Corbett and Eberling each added three.

Tulane was led by Radosevic with 25 kills and hit .345, while Visnja Djurdjevic added 15 kills and 11 digs. Jenn Miller posted a match-high 17 digs.