Dec. 4, 2008

Courtesy of Saint Louis

LEXINGTON, Ky. - No. 21 Saint Louis made history when it earned the program's first NCAA Tournament win on Thursday evening with a 25-10, 25-15, 25-11 victory over Alabama A&M in first-round action at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky. The 13th seeded Billikens improved to 29-4 with their 21st straight win, while the Bulldogs ended their season with a 12-15 mark. SLU will take on the winner of the Kentucky-Michigan match tomorrow at 6 p.m. (CT).

"I can't tell you how proud I am of the team for making history for us tonight," SLU head coach Anne Kordes said. "This is our second NCAA appearance, but our first win. We couldn't be more excited. We get to stay in Lexington another night and we are real proud of the team right now."

Bridget Fonke turned in a match-high 16 kills, while Megan Boken trailed with 11. Lauren Christman followed with eight kills and a match-best two blocks. Whitney Roth led all players with 29 assists to go along with seven digs. Sammi McCloud nearly posted the second triple-double of her career with a team-high 15 digs, eight assists and six kills. Whitney Behrens added eight digs, and moved up to the No. 3 spot on SLU's career digs list (1327). Karensa Beckford led the Bulldogs with six kills, while Natalie Rodriguez dished out 12 assists. Rose Corneille tied for match-high honors with 15 digs.

The Billikens took control from the start of the opening set, using a four-point run to go up by six. Boken started the spurt with a kill, and a Bulldog hitting error followed before Christman and McCloud combined for a block. Then Christman put down a kill for the 8-2 advantage. Only once did AAMU score back-to-back points when it came through with a double block and SLU suffered a ball-handling error to make it 16-8. Saint Louis continued to build its lead, closing the set by scoring eight of the final nine points for its largest lead of the set. Boken led all players with six kills, while Madinah Abdullah, who had two kills, was the only Bulldog to record a kill in the opening set.

SLU scored the first point of set two and never looked back en route to a two-set lead. The Bills raced out to a 5-1 advantage on kills from Sally Warning and McCloud, a Fonke service ace and a pair of AAMU hitting miscues. Following a hitting error, Christman ignited a 4-0 run with a pair of kills and a block to extend the lead to 10-3. Like in the first set, the Billikens kept putting pressure on the Bulldog defense as their lead ballooned to as many as 11 points before the end of the set. Fonke paced SLU with six kills, and the Bills held AAMU to a negative hitting percentage for the second straight set.

Alabama A&M kept the third set close until Saint Louis scored three straight on a Fonke kill and two aces by Behrens to make it 9-4. The Bulldogs only got as close as three points the rest of the way, and the Billikens scored 10 of the final 12 points to capture the win. Late in the set, Boken and Fonke sparked the Saint Louis offense. Boken contributed a kill and three service aces, while Fonke added five kills as the Bills hit at a match-high .536 clip.

The victory was SLU's 18th sweep of the season. Additionally, the Billikens 29 victories this season ties for the second-most in program history. Four SLU squads have finished with a program-best 31 wins.