Volleyball sweeps third UAA Round Robin for 7 straight wins


Courtesy of CWRU Athletics

First-year outside hitter Kalli Wall serves the ball during a match against Washington University in St. Louis, helping CWRU secure an upset against the fourth-ranked school.

Puneet Bansal, Sports Editor

After beginning conference play in mid-September with sub-par performances, the Case Western Reserve University volleyball team has found its groove just in time before the postseason. On Oct. 16, the Spartans defeated Carnegie Mellon University 3-2 and upset No. 4 Washington University in St. Louis 3-2 in the third and final University Athletic Association Round Robin. With the victories, the Spartans improved to 20-4 overall and finished conference play with an improved 4-3 showing.

CWRU and CMU exchanged points early in the first set, with the score being 8-6 in favor of the Spartans midway through. CWRU capitalized and took six of the next 7 points and pushed the lead to 14-7, led by three straight kills from first-year outside hitter Kalli Wall. The Tartans made a couple small runs but the Spartans pulled away 25-16 following another kill from Wall to take the 1-0 set lead.

CWRU rode the momentum to an early 10-5 lead in the second set, but the Tartans snapped back, tying it at 12-12 following 3 straight points, forcing a CWRU timeout. The Spartans tried to hold on, but blocking and handling errors tallied up and the Tartans won the set 24-18, tying it 1-1.

The competition was neck-and-neck for most of the third set. CMU was poised to run away with the win after a service ace for the 22-17 lead. The Spartans came back with 3 straight points following kills from second-year outside hitter Rea Marfatia and third-year middle blocker Jennifer Ngo. However, the game slipped out of the Spartans’ hands as CMU took advantage of an attack error and a service ace to win it 25-20, taking the 2-1 set lead.

The Spartans’ backs were against the wall for a pivotal fourth set and played with a sense of urgency, jumping to a quick 9-3 lead. The Tartans fought back to tie it at 11-11 and eventually took the 22-19 lead following two kills. With an opportunity to put the match away, the Tartans committed a service error and CWRU owned the rest of the set. The Spartans scored 5 straight points, featuring two kills from Marfatia, to win the set 24-22, staying alive at 2-2.

The deciding set went back and forth and CWRU owned an 8-7 lead at the mid-set break. Wall and Ngo notched a block to make it 14-11, but the Tartans stubbornly tied it at 15-15. The Spartans responded with one last run, featuring a kill from Ngo and a CMU attack error to win the set 17-15 and the match 3-2.

 Wall tallied a career-high 16 kills, Marfatia had 13, Ngo had 12, fourth-year outside/right side hitter Gianna Lambert had 10 and second-year outside hitter Carly Scott had 10 as well. Third-year libero Alyssa Blessinger led with 21 digs and second-year defensive specialist Maria Tuepker notched a season-high 13 digs.

Washington controlled the first set from the start, capitalizing on attack errors and defensive miscommunications to take a commanding 15-6 lead. The Spartans tried to answer with 4 straight points, but the deficit was too wide to close. Washington took the 25-17 win for the 1-0 set lead.

CWRU was more engaged in the second set and took a 14-11 lead following a pair of kills from Scott and Wall. The Spartans built a 7-point lead but the Bears answered back and cut the deficit to 23-18. CWRU withstood a couple more pushes from the Bears as first-year middle blocker Amanda Ngo iced the set 25-20 with a kill to tie the match 1-1.

The third set was the tightest as neither team led by more than 2 points until the Spartans edged to a 17-14 advantage. Washington answered with 2 points but the Spartans’ 5-1 run pushed their lead to 22-17. The Bears made a strong 4-0 run to make the score 24-22. The Spartans didn’t collapse as Amanda Ngo spiked a kill for the 25-22 win and a 2-1 match lead.

The Spartans took an early 2-0 lead in the fourth set but the Bears were determined to stay alive, scoring four straight points to take a two point lead and never looking back. Washington won the set 24-18, forcing the match-deciding fifth set.

Blocks and kills by Jennifer Ngo and Wall gave CWRU an early 5-2 lead. The Bears cut the lead to 6-5 but the Spartans scored 4 of the next 5 points to take a 10-6 lead. Following a timeout, the Bears rolled back into the game and tied it at 13-13. Wall and Marfatia put the finishing touches on the upset with two kills to take the set 15-13 and the match 3-2.

Amanda Ngo led the offensive with 15 kills and the defense with 7 blocks, including 3 solo. Jennifer Ngo added 11 kills, 5 digs and 6 blocks while Marfatia tallied 10 kills and 15 digs. Second-year setter Ansley Yamaato led with 27 assists and 10 digs while Blessinger tallied a team-high 29 digs.

The Spartans will play their regular season finale at home against The College of Wooster in the Horsburgh Gymnasium on Saturday, Oct. 29 at 1 p.m. CWRU will be honoring five graduating members as part of Senior Day.