SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – Senior libero Kelly Pang became the all-time career digs leader in Washington (Mo.) history as she lead the No. 1-ranked Bears to a pair of thrilling five-set victories against No. 2 Wittenberg (24-26, 25-19, 25-22, 18-25, 16-14) and No. 3 Calvin (22-25, 26-24, 22-25, 25-16, 18-16) on Friday at the Wittenberg Fall Classic.
Midway through the third set in Washington U.’s five-set win against Wittenberg, Pang recorded her 2,045th career dig, surpassing Colleen Winter as the Bears’ all-time career digs leader. Pang finished the day with 59 digs to bring her career total to 2,085.
In a back-and-forth battle against defending Division III national champion Wittenberg, the Bears saved their most effective offense for the final set, hitting .367 (13-2-30) in the deciding frame. In that set, Wittenberg took an early 4-2 lead, before junior outside hitter Meghan Byrne hammered two kills and joined freshman middle hitter Jackie Nelligan for a block to tie the score 5-5. A kill by senior outside hitter Drew Hargrave gave the Bears an 8-7 advantage as the teams switched sides. A serving error by Washington U. tied the score again at 8-8, but back-to-back kills by Hargrave made it 10-8 in favor of the Bears and forced a Wittenberg timeout.
Out of the timeout, another serving error by Washington U. brought the Tigers to within 10-9, and after a sideout, a third serving error made it 11-10 in favor of Washington U. Kills by junior middle hitter Emily Tulloch and Nelligan gave Washington U. a 13-10 lead. The Tigers then scored two points in a row before Byrne’s fourth kill of the set gave Washington U. match point 14-12. Wittenberg fought off two match-point opportunities for the Bears, tying the score at 14-14. A kill by Nelligan gave the Bears another match-point opportunity, and Hargrave hit a ball off the top of the net that rolled along the tape and to the Wittenberg side of the floor to win the match for the Bears 16-14.
After getting out to a hot start in the first three sets, Washington U. hit just .081 (11-8-37) in the fourth set as Wittenberg led by as many as 10 points (23-13) during the frame. The Bears picked up the offensive intensity toward the end of the set, closing to within 24-18 before the Tigers recorded a kill to send the match to a fifth set.
Overall, the Bears hit .200 (69-27-210) in the match. Hargrave finished with 18 kills, while Byrne added 14, and Tulloch and Nelligan tallied 12 each. Pang posted 29 digs, while Marvi added a career-best 22.
Against Calvin, Washington U. fell behind 2-1 but earned a decisive fourth-set victory to force a fifth frame. In the final set, the Bears hit .375 (14-2-32), which included four kills on seven swings for both Hargrave and Nelligan. Calvin built an early 6-3 lead on an ace serve that hit the top of the tape and fell to the floor, before Washington U. rallied to take a 10-9 lead on a pair of kills by Tulloch and one by Hargrave. The Knights tied the score (10-10) with a kill, before a block by freshman outside hitter Nkiru Udenze and Tulloch, followed by an ace by Pang and a kill by Udenze made it 13-10 in favor of the Bears. Calvin rallied with three consecutive points, but a kill by Byrne gave Washington U. a chance at match point. The teams traded kills to another tie at 16-16, before kills by Nelligan and Hargrave gave Washington U. the 18-16 win in the deciding set.
Hargrave (23 kills, nine digs) and Tulloch (17 kills) each posted career-highs to lead the Bears to the win, while Byrne added 15 kills. Fisher tallied a season-high 61 assists, just one shy of her career-high. Pang notched a season-best 30 digs.