CHICAGO – The University of Chicago volleyball team came out hot and held on late in front of a raucous Ratner Athletics Center crowd to defeat No. 1 Calvin in a four-set thriller that earned the Maroons their biggest victory of 2019 Wednesday night.
The No. 6 Maroons (10-1) captured their 10th win of the year – and ninth-straight – and handed the top-ranked Knights (9-1) their first loss in a 28-26, 28-26, 25-27, 27-25 victory where nothing proved to be easy between two of the best teams in all of NCAA Division III.
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In match totals, it was junior Fredericka Paulson who led the way offensively for a bevy of Maroon hitters who totaled double-digit kill numbers – as Chicago finished with a match-high 64. Paulson led with 17 – she hit a stellar .400 for the match – and Chicago teammates Madison Pearson (12 kills), Ellie Alden (11 kills), Anne Marie Stifter (11 kills) and Mikayla Hardy (10 kills) added to the fray in a balanced effort that kept the Knights' defense off balance all evening.
A first-set Chicago comeback may have set the tone.
Trailing 16-10, the Maroons would enact a 9-3 run to tie the first set at 19-all. Pearson had two kills during the run and Emma Griffith – who finished the contest with 54 assists – added a kill and a service ace. Calvin would again go ahead, 22-20, but an inspired Chicago team rattled off three-straight points, aided by Alden and Pearson kills.
DOWN GOES #1! #6 @UChicagoVB beats #1 @CalvinKnights in Four, 28-26, 28-26, 25-27, 27-25 in front of a ROWDY @UChicago crowd, as the Maroons earn their BIGGEST win of young 2019 👀🙌🏻🏐#MaroonMade #d3vb #UChicago pic.twitter.com/ZYq2XZfbWr— UChicago Athletics (@ChicagoMaroons) September 19, 2019
Down the stretch, Pearson would add two more kills – and serve out the final two points – to erase a set-point opportunity for the Knights (26-25) and give the opener to the hosts. Hardy, Stifter, and Paulson would close out a back-and-forth second set, and the Maroons capitalized on back-to-back errors by Calvin to go up two sets to none.
It appeared that Chicago might sweep the Knights as the Maroons dominated most of Set 3, leading 23-19 late. But Calvin would make one last surge, rattling off six-straight points to steal the momentum and force a fourth set with a 27-25 win.
The third-set stumble by the Maroons seemed to favor the visitors late in Set 4, as Calvin, leading 21-19, appeared primed to force a deciding fifth.
But the Maroons – perhaps fueled by the rowdy crowd of 300-plus – found their resolve at the right moment, as Hardy delivered a kill and service ace to bring her team within one, 22-21. Calvin had a set-point opportunity at 24-23, but it was the first-year Alden who came up huge in the final points.
An Alden kill set up a Griffith service ace to turn the tide to the Maroons, who saw their set-point opportunity squelched by Calvin's Kelsey Smith, who answered with a kill.
But a Calvin service error – the Knights had 14 errors to go along with 13 service aces – set up Alden and Hardy for the match-ending block to give the victory to Chicago.
Chicago hit .239 for the match and held the Knights to .192 and the Maroons' defense – led by 22 digs each from Katherine Wilson and Stifter – totaled a season-high 97 digs.
Alden added four block assists and Hardy (15 digs), Paulson (15 digs), and Griffith (14 digs) also contributed to the Chicago defense.
Calvin's Sarah DeVries had 21 kills and 20 assists, Anna Schriemer had 27 assists and Aubrey Wrubel added 27 digs to lead the Knights.