Eastern reaches first national semi
Win against St. Thomas (Minn.) ninth in a row for Eagles
Eastern University picked up its ninth consecutive win with a 26-24, 25-18, 25-19 sweep of St. Thomas (Minn.) in the NCAA quarterfinal Friday night at the WU Field House.
Eastern, now 36-2 on the season, advanced to its first NCAA semifinal appearance with the win. St. Thomas ended its season at 32-5 overall.
Eastern will play at 7 p.m. ET Saturday against the winner of the California Lutheran University-Wittenberg University quarterfinal match.
St. Thomas grabbed an early 8-2 lead in the match after an attack error by Eastern. The Eagles chipped away at the lead before tying the score at 19-19 after back-to-back kills by sophomore outside hitter Kearby Benak. After another tie at 24-24, Eastern earned the 26-24 win on kills by freshman outside hitter Lauren Sproles and freshman middle blocker Katrina Pisch.
Eastern never trailed in the second set, building as much as a nine-point lead at 22-13 on a kill by Benak. The Tommies got to within 24-18 on a service ace by freshman outside hitter Jill Greenfield, but a kill by senior outside hitter Courtney Reinhold gave Eastern the 25-18 win.
The Tommies jumped out to an early 6-2 lead in the third set behind three consecutive ace serves by Greenfield. St. Thomas maintained its lead until a kill by Benak tied the score at 10-10. The Eagles took the lead for good on the next point, and back-to-back kills by Reinhold moved Eastern into the semifinal round with the 25-19 set-three victory.
Eastern hit .311 (51-13-122) in the match, compared with .168 (35-15-119) hitting for St. Thomas. Benak and Reinhold paced Eastern with 15 kills each, while adding 11 and 14 digs, respectively. Senior setter Maria Horning tallied 45 assists, and junior libero Kelly Groff recorded a match-high 15 digs.
The Tommies were led by freshman middle blocker Kelly Foley who finished with 10 kills. Senior setter Ashley Maher finished with 30 assists. Junior libero Kaitlain Wachter had a team-high 14 digs, while Greenfield added 11 digs, five ace serves and eight kills.
• Eastern's dynamic duo