CHICAGO — The University of Chicago volleyball team confidently began its postseason campaign on Friday night as it dispatched University of Dubuque 3-0 in the first round of the NCAA Division III Championship at the Ratner Athletics Center.
Hosts of this weekend's regional for the first time in program history, the 10th-ranked Maroons (29-4 overall) ran away with the first set before back-and-forth contests in the second and third saw well-timed bursts of late scoring decide both in their favor. While UChicago advances to the next round, the Spartans concludes their season with a 24-9 record.
UChicago 3, Dubuque 0 (25-13, 25-20, 25-20)
Sophomore setter Emma Griffith was the catalyst as usual, leading her team with 30 assists and 23 digs. Senior rightside hitter Sarah Muisenga and junior middle hitter Madison Pearson provided the bulk of the firepower with 12 kills apiece, Muisenga hitting .344 and Pearson a whopping .440. Sophomore libero Katherine Wilson collected 12 digs, while Muisenga tallied 11 of her own. In sum, UChicago hit .222 as a team and limited the Spartans to a cumulative hitting percentage of .082.
The first minutes of the match saw a number of long-fought points, but after a 4-4 opening split, the Maroons rattled off a 16-5 run that left them with a 20-9 lead before comfortably wrapping up the set. Pearson led the way with five kills while Muisenga contributed three kills and two aces. The Spartans could not keep up, as eight errors dragged their hitting percentage down to .024.
Dubuque came alive in the second set, however, pushing the Maroons from the opening point. Falling behind 7-4, UChicago pulled even at 10 and the teams swapped leads throughout the teens until the hosts held a 19-18 advantage. Two crucial kills from Muisenga supplied the Maroons some breathing room and they made no mistake, finishing off the set 25-20. Although Dubuque had raised it game, UChicago answered with a .300 hitting percentage on 50 attacks as junior outside hitter Anabella Pinton recorded four of her nine total kills and Muisenga racked up six more.
The Spartans rallied hard after the setback and soon led 7-2 despite the threat of elimination. But after a timeout, the Maroons battled back to seize a 12-11 edge. More seesaw action brought the teams into a 17-17 tie before UChicago showed its late-game poise once again, taking six of the next eight points for a 23-19 lead Dubuque could not overcome. Though the Maroons made six errors and hit just .118 in the third frame, they hung on and finished off the match at the earliest opportunity, avoiding potential fourth and fifth sets.
UChicago will have just under 24 hours to rest before its second-round contest against Aurora University, who upset 12th-ranked Trinity University (Texas) 3-0 earlier in the day. The match will begin at 5:00 PM after the conclusion of the first regional semifinal, which pits No. 11-ranked Illinois Wesleyan University against No. 13-ranked Washington University – St. Louis. The winners of both matches will meet on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 PM.
- Saturday, Nov. 10 @ 5:00 PM – Aurora University at UChicago