UW-Whitewater slips past St. Thomas in NCAA volleyball
The No. 8-ranked Warhawks used furious rallies all night and pulled out a 15-13 win in the deciding fifth game over host St. Thomas in a thrilling championship match. The final score was 30-32, 30-21, 30-28, 24-30, 15-13.
“In crunch time, I felt confident our players would take care of the ball and finish strong,” said Whitewater coach Stacy Boudreau. “And that was the difference in a very close match. St. Thomas played a very, very good match. I give a lot of credit to them.”
Next up for the Warhawks is a trip to Bloomington, Ill., for the eight-team national finals, starting next Thursday.
Whitewater (34-4) stretched its season win streak to 15 and capped a 3-0 sweep in NCAA regional matches for the third year in a row.
“We never lost confidence,” said Warhawk All-American Carley Polk. “We didn’t play out best match but we did what we had to do to get a win. We saw some scrappiness by St. Thomas that we hadn’t seen much this year. But we really wanted this. We wanted to get back to the national tournament for another year.”
The Warhawks, ranked No. 8 nationally, boast five seniors in key roles. That senior class now has a four-year record of 143-20 and will return to the Elite Eight for the third consecutive season.
Whitewater’s 19-3 postseason record includes a 9-0 mark in NCAA regional play since 2005 No. 12-ranked Tommies (28-5) are tough to beat at home. St. Thomas came into the match 8-0 this season and 26-3 since 2005 on their home court.
And the home fans were ecstatic when the Tommies led 27-22 in game three, poised to take a 2-1 edge in games in the match.
But the Warhawks stormed back to take the third game, 30-28. A fourth-game comeback from an early 16-4 deficit fell short, however, and the Warhawks lost 30-24 to force game five.
The Tommies raced to a 5-1 lead in the deciding game. They still led 11-10 and tied the game 13-13. But Whitewater stayed focused to score the last two points close out the victory.
“Whitewater’s experience is what put them over the top,” said St. Thomas coach Thanh Pham. “They're a great team, but we gave them everything they wanted and more. We easily could have folded after losing the lead in game three, but it was a testament to our team that we bounced right back.”
Abby Schultz had 23 kills and 17 digs; Kate Lazotte had 61 assists and 22 digs; and Polk added 15 kills and eight blocks. UW-W had a 25-17 edge in blocks on the match.