ENOSHA, Wis. -- Elmhurst advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a thrilling 14-25, 25-21, 22-25, 32-30, 16-14 come-from-behind win against Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Trailing two sets to one, late in the fourth set, Elmhurst fought off match point after match point before finally putting the set away to force a decisive fifth set. The Warhawks had seven chances to seal the match, but the Bluejays calmly answered back to knot the score on each occasion. Trailing 29-28, a Jackie Pavilonis kill evened the score at 30. Elmhurst had a set point at 31-30 after a block from Hannah Nimrick and Melissa Nava, but Whitewater pulled even on a kill from Jessica Sabey. A kill from Nimrick followed by a kill from Sam Szarmach gave the Bluejays the set at 32-30.
"We didn't want our season to come to an end so we had to keep battling in the fourth set," Szarmach said.
"We did a great job of getting some of our rotations where we were weaker at the net," head coach Julie Hall said. "I thought Hannah did a great job of picking the right time to attack and setting up the rest of the offense until Jackie or Sam made came back to the front."
Elmhurst (31-8), fell behind after the first set after Whitewater (26-9) stormed out to a commanding 7-2 lead and never looked back. The Warhawks never let the Bluejays come closer than a five-point deficit before pulling away for the 25-21 win.
Whitewater jumped out to an 18-14 cushion in the second set before Elmhurst go rolling. The Bluejays rattled off eight straight points behind the serve of Peggy Clemens to take a 22-18 lead. Whitewater pulled to within three points at 24-21, but a kill from Nimrick gave the Bluejays the second set at 25-21.
The third set was a battle as both teams traded points back and forth. Neither team led by more three points at any point in the set. Elmhurst led 20-19, but Whitewater used a 4-1 run to take a 23-21 lead. A service error on the Warhawks brought Elmhurst to within a point at 23-22, but a block from Kristen Ruchti and Pfeifer followed by a kill from Pfeifer gave the Warhawks the set at 25-22 and set up the Bluejays' thrilling come-from-behind win in the fourth set.
Elmhurst finished the contest hitting .237 with 71 kills and 30 errors in 173 swings. Whitewater hit .265 for the match with 61 kills and 20 errors in 155 attacks. Whitewater totaled 12 blocks while Elmhurst recorded nine.
Pavilonis and Szarmach combined for 41 kills to lead the Bluejays in the victory. Pavilonis totaled a match-high 21 kills while hitting .515 for the match. Szarmach added 20 kills, 14 digs and four blocks in the victory. Nimrick tallied 14 kills to go with 48 assists. Alli Rogers tallied eight kills while Nava finished with five kills and five blocks. Amy Schryver led the squad in digs with 17 while Clemens added 12.
Whitewater was led by Sabey's 18 kills. Ariel Friertag and Pfeifer finished with 13 kills apiece. Sydney Toon totaled six blocks and six kills while Kim Frei finished with a match-high 56 assists.
"When we control our side of the net, I think we're a very good team," Hall said. "If we can handle our serve receive and cut down our mistakes, then I think we're capable of beating any team in the country."
Elmhurst has a quick turnaround and plays its second-round game on Friday at 4:30 p.m.
What a match!!! Great play by both teams! Way to hold steady at crunch time ECVB!!!! pic.twitter.com/ahreLituFR— Elmhurst Volleyball (@ElmhurstVB) November 13, 2014