Warhawks earn title shot
It’s true! The third time is the charm.
After being defeated twice by second-ranked Juniata (Pa.) during the regular season, UW-Whitewater’s volleyball team came through when it counted.
“I think we were extra pumped,” senior Abby Schultz said. “We just wanted to come out and play the best we could because we knew we could play with them.”
Not only did the Warhawks play with them, they defeated the defending champion Eagles, 30-28, 30-28, 30-25, to advance to the NCAA Division III national title match for the second time in three years.
The Warhawks (36-4), aiming to duplicate their title success of 2002 and 2005, play Washington University (32-5) of St. Louis in tonight’s 7 o’clock finale at the Shirk Center on the Illinois Wesleyan campus.
Washington knocked out top-ranked Wittenberg (Ohio), 3-1 (25-30, 30-25, 30-28, 30-12), in the other semifinal match.
Whitewater’s defense all but shut down the Juniata attack by outblocking the Eagles, 10-3, as the Warhawks notched their 17th straight win.
“They were very good. They played really well,” Juniata coach Larry Bock said of the Warhawks. “We’re not going to do anything with three blocks.
“They clamped on our little outside hitter and had two huge blocks at the end of Game 1. That might have turned things completely around.”
Both of the blocks Bock referred to came from senior All-America standout Carley Polk, whose pregame goal was to concentrate on defense.
“Before the game, in mind was, ‘I don’t care about hitting right now. I just have to move my butt from side to side,’ ” Polk said. “Because otherwise, my defense would be re- ally mad at me. My mindset was to get every ball, as much as I could.’’
While the Warhawks were on top of their game, it was a battle from the start. The lead changed hands frequently in Game 1, which wasn’t decided until Whitewater scored the last four points to overcome a 28-26 deficit.
After the Eagles scored four straight points to go up 25-23, Whitewater didn’t regain lead until it was 29-28 on a block by Polk and Schultz. Polz then ended the game with a kill.
In a see-saw second game, Whitewater finally got some breathing room after leading 27-26. With the Warhawks up 28-26, Alyse Karls’ service ace made it 29-26.
A Whitewater service error and a kill by Juniata’s Amber Thomas pulled the Eagles within 29-28. Kate Lazotte’s kill then ended the game and gave the Warhawks a 2-0 advantage.
Juniata (37-5) jumped to a 5-1 lead in Game 3, but Whitewater quickly retaliated with five straight points. The Warhawks used a four-point run to lead 20-15 and maintained that five-point spread at 23-18 on kills by Lazotte and Polk.
After that, Juniata never got closer than 27-24. Schultz ended the game and the match with a kill.
Whitewater coach Stacey Boudreau was proud of her team’s effort and attributed the win to the Warhawks’ intensity and confidence.
“I’ve gotta give it to these girls,” Boudreau said. “Tonight, we eliminated our mistakes and played with a lot of passion and a lot of fire.”
Polk’s fire also was evident on the offensive end in collecting 12 kills. She also had six of the Warhawks’ blocks, while Lazotte contributed 44 assists.
The Whitewater offense was led by Schultz who smashed 13 kills, the majority coming from her outside hitter position.
“I was just trying to hit what was open,” Schultz said. “They have huge players. I was trying hit around them and keep the ball in play. I knew that would eventually get them out of system.”
And she was right.
WHITEWATER 3, JUNIATA 0
UW-Whitewater 30 30 30
Juniata (Pa.) 28 28 25
Whitewater (aces-kills-digs-assists)—Abby Schultz, 0-13-14-3; Sarah Theis, 0-12-1-0; Rebekah Nelson, 0-4-6-3; Kate Lazotte, 0-6-11-44; Kelly Sorenson, 0-8-14-1; Carley Polk, 0-12-1-0; Alyse Karls, 2-0-1-0; Kristina Conlin, 0-0-17-2. Totals: 2-55-65-53.
Juniata (aces-kills-digs-assists)—Amber Thomas, 0-22-9-0; Paige Johnston, 0-5-4-0; Megan Lamens, 0-3-0-0; Beth Kozak, 0-2-9-46; Brittany Carr, 0-4-4-0; Erin Albert, 1-13-7-1; Jessica Ritchey, 0-0-13-3; Molly Sollenberger, 0-0-7-0; Kristin Noetzel, 0-2-0-0; Megan Sollenberger, 1-0-21-3; Michelle Morchesky, 0-4-1-0; Kristi Fitzsimmons, 0-0-0-0. Totals: 2-55-75-53.