Warhawks roll in volleyball quarterfinals
The Warhawks’ calm demeanor led them to a 30-17, 30-23, 30-25 sweep over University of Puget Sound (Wash.) here Thursday night at the Shirk Center on the Illinois Wesleyan campus.
In fact, Whitewater senior Abby Schultz said her team’s demeanor was a key to the victory.
“We play the best when we’re relaxed and having fun,” she said. “We try to keep that atmosphere the whole time. When we’re serious, it doesn’t go well.”
The match couldn’t have gone much better for the fun-loving Warhawks (35-4) as they advanced to the semifinals, where they face second-ranked defending champion Juniata (Pa.) at 4:30 p.m. today.
Junianta (37-4) eliminated Amherst (Mass.), 30-8, 30-22, 30-21, in the quarterfinals.
Whitewater’s seemingly care-free tactics are something coach Stacy Boudreau has come to expect.
“That’s just kind of been this team’s style the whole year,” she said. “(Their style is) just to really have fun. They just enjoy being around each other and enjoy playing volleyball. It shows on the court.”
The loose style especially helped the Warhawks in the second game when Puget Sound (20-8) got to within three points at 20-17.
Senior Kate LaZotte, a second-team All-America selection last season, smashed a kill to earn a side out and then served up a 6-0 run. The last two points came on two of LaZotte’s game-high six aces.
LaZotte’s aces added to more than just the Whitewater lead.
“Once I get an ace, it builds my confidence,” she said. “Then I’m more confident back behind the serving line.”
LaZotte’s confidence paid off again in the third game when she served with her team down 23-22. When her service was done, Whitewater was up 28-23 and never looked back.
“They served us very, very tough,” Puget Sound coach Mark Massey said. “They ran with serving some really tough, heavy balls today. That was the difference.”
After this weekend, as Whitewater bids for its second national title in three years, the Warhawks might consider calling the Shirk Center their home away from home.
With the Whitewater pep band and a loyal fan following, this quarterfinal match seemed like one of the Warhawks’ home matches.
“I think it definitely feels a little bit more like that,” Boudreau said. “The last two years, we went all the way to Virginia, and the crowds were a little bit slimmer. So definitely having the band be able to come down here—and we’ve had a great following of fans the whole year—definitely helped.”
Whitewater’s Kelly Sorenson and Puget Sound’s Emma Bryant each had 10 kills. LaZotte had a game-high 38 assists.
Puget Sound’s appearance at this year’s National Championship was only its fourth in school history.
The Loggers’ limited experience was partially to blame for their short stay in Bloomington. But according to senior all-conference, all-region player Monica Groves, the trip was something to take pride in.
“I think we had a little excess nervousness,” Groves said. “I don’t know if we quite handled it the right way. (Being here) was very exciting, and I’m proud of what our team’s done. Getting here, even though it ended this way I’m still so proud.”
WHITEWATER 3, PUGET SOUND 0
Puget Sound 17 23 25
UW-Whitewater 30 30 30
Puget Sound (aces-kills-digs-assists)—Jamee Fred, 1-0-11-24; Lindsey Denman, 0-8-1-0; Kelsie Telge, 0-1-6-0; Monica Groves, 2-6-2-1; Molly Hunsinger, 0-0-4-0; Emma Bryant, 0-10-0-0; Kris Sumida, 0-0-1-0; Leigh Sumida, 1-1-9-0; Kalli Kamphaus, 0-4-4-0; Jess McPhee-Hayes, 1-0-4-0; Rachel Gross, 1-0-11-1; Natalie Monro, 0-0-1-0. Totals: 6-30-55-26.
Whitewater (aces-kills-digs-assists)—Abby Schultz, 1-7-14-2; Sarah Theis, 0-8-2-1; Rebekah Nelson, 2-9-7-1; Kate Lazotte, 6-6-10-38; Kelly Sorenson, 3-10-14-1; Carley Polk, 0-8-0-0; Alyse Karls, 1-0-2-0; Kristina Conlin, 1-0-15-4. Totals: 14-48-65-47.