Volleyball makes national tournament after finishing third in conference

For just the second time in the history of the Case Western Reserve University volleyball program, the team is playing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Championship tournament.

The Spartans will face the University of Mary Washington in the first round on Friday, Nov. 13 on the campus of Juniata College in Huntingdon, PA. Leading up to the announcement the team captured third place at the University Athletic Association (UAA) Championships in Rochester, NY by defeating the University of Chicago 25-9, 25-16, 22-25, 25-21.

Obviously, the players are excited. A video of a few of the team members’ reactions at the team’s watch party was posted online, which showed the players jumping for joy. “[It’s] the most excited I’ve ever been in my volleyball career,” said fourth-year outside hitter Carolyn Bogart, when describing the moment.

“It was pure joy,” added fourth-year libero Katie Best.

To get to the point where the NCAA tournament selection committee would even consider the team, the Spartans needed to finish in at least third place in the UAA championships. A win in the quarterfinals against host University of Rochester 25-15, 25-19, 25-11 advanced the Spartans to the semifinals where they lost to UAA Champion and national No. 1 Washington University in St. Louis 16-25, 23-25, 18-25. The loss set up the third place match against the University of Chicago.

Against the Maroons, CWRU jumped out to big leads in the first two sets. At one point in the first set, the Spartans were up 16 points on the No. 22 Maroons. Large wins in the first two sets did not ensure victory for the Spartans as Chicago pulled ahead in set three, eventually taking an eight-point lead. An 8-1 ensuing CWRU run cut the lead to one at 23-22, but the Spartans dropped the last two points and the set.

The final set started like the first two, as CWRU took a 12-3 lead, but the University of Chicago came storming back to drop the lead to three. Fighting hard, the Spartans maintained the lead, ensuring it never dropped below three until finally clinching the match. Following the match, the Spartans’ future was in doubt, but fourth-year right side hitter Dani Witri knew otherwise. “I didn’t feel like our season was over,” she said, reflecting on the moment.

As true CWRU students, players were doing thorough research to figure out if they could reach the NCAA tournament, as they had been since an early-season win against the University of Mount Union. Bogart even compiled a spreadsheet filled with the data used by the selection committee, correctly predicting 60 of the 64 entrants.

Third-year outside hitter Marian Barton shined throughout the tournament totaling 42 kills, half of which came against the University of Chicago. “She made a big difference,” said Head Coach Karen Farrell. “Everything she touched was a kill.”

Other standouts for the Spartans’ offense included fourth-year middle hitter Haley Kauffman (30 kills and .312 hitting percentage), Bogart (25 kills and 50 digs) and first-year setter Shannon Carroll (103 assists and 29 digs). On defense, Best (42 digs) and first-year defensive specialist Karina Bondelid (37 digs) both performed well.