Elmhurst rallies to knock off Cornell
Bluejays finish match hitting .129 with 59 kills and 32 errors
ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Elmhurst rallied from a 2-1 deficit to edge Cornell College in five sets and advance to the second round of the NCAA championship.
Elmhurst (31-5), ranked 16th in the latest AVCA poll, edged Cornell (28-6) by a final score of 25-17, 20-25, 18-25, 25-21, 15-10.
The Bluejays started strong, taking the opening set 25-17 while hitting .242. Things started to head south in the second set as the Bluejays committed 10 hitting errors and struggled with their passing, allowing Cornell to knot the match at a set apiece.
Elmhurst's struggles continued in the third set as the Bluejays committed eight errors while Cornell clicked on offense. The Rams hit .186 as a team and finished the set with 14 kills.
Elmhurst fell behind 8-5 early in the fourth set, but the Bluejays responded with five straight points to take a 10-8 lead. Cornell used a 4-2 run to knot the match at 12-12, but the Bluejays answered back with a 4-0 run to open up a 16-12 lead. Elmhurst pushed its lead up to 23-17, before the Rams responded with four straight points, forcing the Bluejays to burn a timeout at 23-21. Back-to-back kills from Antonéya Veasy Smith gave the fourth set to the Bluejays and sent the match into a decisive fifth set.
Trailing 3-2 early in the fifth set, Elmhurst ripped off six straight points behind the serve of Melissa Miehlke to grab an 8-3 advantage. Cornell managed to to get to within three points at 13-10, but a Cornell error and a Megan Reynolds kill sealed the match for the Bluejays.
The Bluejays finished the match hitting .129 as a team with 59 kills and 32 errors. Cornell hit .095 with 49 kills and 30 errors.
Reynolds was one of three Elmhurst players to reach double figures in kills, leading the way with 13 while also recording five blocks. Sam Szarmach finished with 12 kills, 16 digs and three blocks while Veasy Smith turned in an 11-kill, 17-dig, three-block performance. Kaitlyn Wilks added eight kills and a team-high six blocks. Perrie Morgan led the squad in digs with 32 while Marci Novak came off the bench to add 15. Taylor Rasmussen chipped in with five kills and five blocks. Katie Rueffer finished with 17 assists and five kills while Erin Thill led the squad in assists with 25.
Taylor Dicus led Cornell with 14 points and a match-high 10 blocks. Kathleen O'Connor added 10 kills and 20 digs for the Rams. Katie Sickelka and Kirtley Hitt added eight kills apiece while Sabrina Hargis finished with a match-high 39 assists.
Elmhurst head coach Julie Hall gave the Bluejays' opponent high praise after the match.
"We knew we had a very tough opening round draw with Cornell," said Hall. "They are a legitimate program and I expect that they'll be back in the NCAA tournament for years to come."
Despite their struggles, Hall was pleased that the Bluejays were able to battle back for the victory. The Bluejays have trailed 2-1 in each of their five-set matches this season but improved to 3-1 in five-set contests with the win over Cornell.
"We didn't play our best volleyball today," said Hall. "But, it's a testament to our team that they never stopped fighting. All year long, they've never given up when they've fallen behind and I think that attitude helped us today. That said, I know we need to really improve our passing to get our hitters more swings before our next match."