CHICAGO – A battle between the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams in NCAA Division III volleyball lived up to its billing with a five-set thriller, but it would be visiting Emory University who would outlast the host University of Chicago in Saturday's University Athletic Association Championship match.
The second-ranked Maroons (26-3) fell by scores of 25-19, 17-25, 25-18, 25-27, and 10-15 to fall runner-up to the top-ranked Eagles (29-2) for the second-straight season. For the Eagles, it avenged an earlier season loss to the Maroons in the final UAA Round Robin back in October.
Junior Fredericka Paulson led the UChicago offense with 14 kills (.379) and added 10 digs and three block assists, senior Madison Pearson had 12 kills, four block assists and a solo block and junior Mikayla Hardy added 10 kills and three block assists for the Maroons, who did win the battle at the net: totaling 18 block assists to 12 for the Eagles.
Junior setter Emma Griffith nearly hit the half-century mark with 47 assists and added 14 digs and three block assists and libero Katherine Wilson defended the Emory attack to the tune of a match-high 33 digs, as UChicago out-dug Emory, 86-74.
UChicago – red-hot after sweeping both Rochester and No. 19 Carnegie Mellon on Friday's first day of UAAs – came out firing in the first set in front of a rowdy crowd and took Set 1, 25-19. Emory though would respond, using a .324 attack percentage in the second set to even up the match with a 25-17 score.
The see-saw continued, as UChicago regained the momentum with a 25-18 Set 3 win and a 2-1 lead, and the Maroons appeared primed to take the match with a big advantage in the fourth frame. UChicago jumped out to an 11-6 lead and then held match-point, 24-22, after a clutch Paulson kill.
But the defending UAA and NCAA Division III national champion Eagles would not go down, as Emory rallied with three straight Morgan McKnight kills to take a 25-24 advantage. A Leah Saunders kill set up Emory's match point, and a Tara Martin block ended it to send the match to five and the momentum to Emory.
The Eagles quickly jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the shortened fifth frame, and it proved to be too much to overcome against Emory, which has just two losses on the year.
McKnight would finish with 20 kills (.215) and Martin had 16 to lead the Emory hitters.
Emory – which has won four UAA titles in the past six seasons – earns the automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament, while UChicago will await its at-large placing in Monday's NCAA Selection Show, set for 11:30 a.m. CT.