November 10, 2014

Second-place finish at UAAs inspires NCAA tourney bid

The Maroons came into the UAA Championship as the fifth-ranked team in the conference. However, riding the riding the waves of a 4–0 performance at the Benedictine Tournament, the Maroons seemed poised for an upset showing. Powered by this momentum, and the necessity of a solid showing in order to clinch a spot in the playoffs, the Maroons took to the court against Case Western Reserve on Friday afternoon.

The Spartans (16–12) gave the Maroons (26–12) trouble earlier this season during the second UAA Round Robin, defeating the South Siders by a set score of 3–1. The Maroons were eager to avenge their earlier defeat and they got off to a great start, taking a very tight first set 25–23.

However, the second set did not bode nearly as well for the Maroons. The errors made all the difference, as four Maroon mistakes proved to be the margin of loss in the second set as the Maroons dropped it 25–21.

Despite the tough second set, the Maroons absolutely dominated the Spartans in the third, accumulating 13 more kills than their opponents. Winning 19 points off kills, the Maroons cruised to a 25–17 third-set victory.

With their tournament lives on the line, Case Western fought hard to force a fifth set. However, the attacking prowess of the Chicago side proved to be overwhelming, and the Maroons clinched the match with a 25–21 fourth-set victory.

Earlier in the day, the Wash U Bears defeated Brandeis in a walkover with scores of 25–9, 25–8, 25–20.

The Maroons had given the Bears one of their four losses earlier this season and came into the match looking to provide the one-seed with their fifth loss of the year. Furthermore, a win over the nationally fifth-ranked Bears would help catapult the now 25–11 Maroons into the NCAA Tournament.

Powered by fourth-year, middle hitter Morgan Barry and third-year, outside hitter Maren Loe, the Maroons handed the Bears one of their worst losses of the season in a swift 3–0 match.

The first set was very close as the Maroons barely edged out the Bears, 25–22. In the second set, Chicago clicked and delivered 14 kills while making only a single error. The stunning accuracy of the Maroons’ play led them to a monstrous 25–13 second-set victory. The Maroons ultimately closed the match with a third-set victory with a score of 25–21. With that, the Maroons were headed to the UAA Championship game.

The odds of the Maroons getting into the NCAA playoffs seemed pretty certain, especially since last year Wash U found its way into the tournament with a similar record. Despite the historical evidence to suggest some safety, the Maroons were not about to take any chances in the championship match.

With this must-win attitude, the Maroons prepared for a championship bout against Emory. The two sides seemed very evenly matched—no team ever led in the first set by more than four points. After losing two set points on consecutive Emory kills, the Maroons clinched the first set on two consecutive errors by Emory.

But it was downhill from there for the South Siders. The Eagles rolled in the second set with a 25–15 victory. The Maroons made each of the next two sets closer, but were unable to take either as they dropped the third and fourth set for a brutal (26–24, 15–25, 18–25, 20–25) defeat.

The Maroons accepted second place and hoped for the next two days that their performance was enough to secure them a spot in the NCAA DIII National Tournament. Monday morning, as the brackets were announced, the volleyball team celebrated as it drew a first round match against (26–10) DePauw University.

The Tigers posted a similar record to the Maroons and have put up similar results against common opponents. Despite the Maroons’ two extra losses, they will probably enter into the match Thursday in Kenosha, WI as slight favorites. A victory in this first-round match will find the Maroons playing familiar opponents in either Carthage College or Dominican University in the second round of the tournament.