Nov. 13, 2009

St. Louis, Mo. - The No. 4 Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team advanced to the NCAA Division III Central Regional Final with a 3-1 (25-21, 24-26, 25-18, 25-22) victory over Saint Mary's University (Minn.) on Friday, Nov. 13, at the WU Field House in St. Louis, Mo. Senior middle hitter Erin Albers led the Bears with 21 kills while hitting .529 and recording four total blocks, three solo efforts and one assist.

Albers now sits just two kills shy of number 1,000 for her career. Freshman Kelly Pang did reach a milestone during Friday night's match. With a team-high 18 digs against St. Mary's she set a new Washington University single-season record. In just 34 matches, Pang has 614 digs, an average of 5.43 per set. She breaks the old single-season mark of 606, set by Nicole Hodgman in 2003.

Washington U. will face No. 8 Carthage College in the regional final on Saturday night. The Lady Reds advanced to their third regional final match in as many years with a 3-0 win over Nebraska Wesleyan University earlier on Friday. For the Bears, it is their 23rd straight appearance in the regional finals and the second time in three years that their opponent will be Carthage. Washington University defeated Carthage, 3-1, in the 2007 regional finals in Kenosha, Wis.

Washington University used 19 kills while hitting .306 as a team to pick up a 25-21 win in the opening set against St. Mary's. Albers led the way for the Bears by converting seven of her 10 attempts for kills with no errors to hit .700 in the opening frame. Sophomore middle hitter Lauren Budde also found offensive success in the first set, tallying five kills.

The Bears trailed 11-8 early in the first and a kill from freshman outside hitter Drew Hargrave began an 8-3 Washington U. scoring run that shifted the momentum. After junior Marya Kaminski knotted the score at 12-12 with a cross-court kill, Budde and Hargrave spiked down St. Mary's overpasses on consecutive plays to put the Red and Green ahead 16-14, and the Bears did not trail for the remainder of the set.

With a 16-10 lead in the second set, Washington U. appeared to be headed to a 2-0 lead in the match, but the Cardinals stormed back to tie the contest at 1-1 with a 26-24 win. Two-straight kills from St. Mary's junior right side Sarah Gardner pulled the Cardinals within two, 17-15, and St. Mary's was in front 19-18 after an attacking error from freshman Madeleine Shroyer.

The Bears rebounded with a kill from Albers on a slide to the right side and the score was tied at 23-23 when Washington U. freshman setter Marilee Fisher killed a dug ball from sophomore outside hitter Kristen Thomas. WU never regained the lead and St. Mary's ended the set with kills from junior outside hitter Jessica Mate and Gardner, her sixth of the set and 11th of the match.

In the third set St. Mary's once again worked to overcome a large deficit, but this time Washington U. withstood the Cardinals' scoring run and pulled away for a seven-point win. A kill from Gardner followed by a Budde attacking error left the Bears ahead by just one, 14-13, after the Red and Green had led by as many as five points early on.

The story for St. Mary's in the third was difficulty attacking the ball, and those issues flared up as Mate and Gardner had attacking errors on back-to-back plays to put Washington U. back ahead by three. The Bears gradually increased their lead and clinched a 25-18 victory with a Budde kill. St. Mary's hit just .083 in the third set, compared to a .278 attacking percentage for the Bears. Albers continued her offensive assault, adding five more kills to her match-leading tally of 19, and she was hitting .586 through three sets.

The Bears survived another frenzied St. Mary's comeback in the fourth set, scoring three-straight points to punch their ticket to the regional final. Washington University led 17-10 before a 12-5 St. Mary's run evened the set at 22-22. The Bears pulled together and never relinquished their lead as Shroyer sent a kill straight through the middle of the Cardinals' defense to put the Red and Green back in front. Budde tallied her 13th kill of the match on the next play and sophomore defensive specialist Tricia Brandt ended the match with her third service ace of the day.

Fisher finished the match with 42 assists, seven kills and seven digs. Budde recorded a double-double adding 12 digs to her 13 kills, and she led the Bears with five block assists. Senior Laura Brazeal also tallied double-digit digs for the Bears finishing with 10. St. Mary's saw three student-athletes reach double figures in kills, as Gardner led the way with 17, Amy Kujak had 11 and Jessica Larson finished with 10.