Panthers Hold Off Phoenix To Claim Share Of League Crown
Nov. 2, 2007
GREEN BAY, Wis. - Kelley Olson tallied a collegiate-best 16 kills to lead six players in double figures as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee claimed at least a share of its fifth-straight Horizon League regular season title with a 30-23, 30-28, 28-30, 29-31, 15-8 win over UW-Green Bay Friday night in the first collegiate event in the new Kress Events Center.
The Panthers (23-2, 13-1) also had five players reach double figures in digs, with three players tallying better than 20 digs. Lauren Felsing led the way with 27, while sister Leanne Felsing added 25 as part of a triple-double.
Liesl Tesch had 19 kills to lead Green Bay (5-18, 3-11).
Milwaukee looked like it was on its way to a three-game win after grabbing a 2-0 lead. But the Phoenix rallied to force a deciding fifth game, only to see the Panthers dominate that deciding frame.
"I think the confidence came back, the fight came back and everything came together," UWM head coach Susie Johnson said. "We started to play more like a team and stopped waiting for Green Bay to make mistakes."
UWM wasted little time in taking control of the fifth game, using a 6-0 run to grab an 8-3 lead. Green Bay did close to within 9-6, but kills by Felsing and Olson along with a Phoenix error pushed the lead back to 12-6. Then, another kill by Olson and two Green Bay errors wrapped up the match for the Panthers.
"Kelley really did a nice job and she came through at the end," Johnson said. "She is really playing with a lot of confidence. And I thought Leanne made some changes and got better during the match. She had some big kills in that fifth game."
The win makes UWM the first team in league history to ever win five-straight regular season league titles, and the Panthers can claim the outright title with one win next weekend or one loss by Cleveland State in either of its final two matches.
"It is the first step toward something bigger," Johnson said. "I feel like every point of every match is preparing us for the conference tournament and beyond. We are proud and excited to at least be sharing the conference title, but we're still focused on winning the outright title, winning the league tournament and beyond."
The Panthers grabbed the early lead in the match by controlling the entire first game. UWM built a quick 6-3 lead on a Lauren Felsing ace and extended the edge to 18-10 on a Green Bay error. Milwaukee then led 21-12 after a Peters kill and never let the Phoenix get closer than five points the rest of the way. Kills by Schmitting and Olson closed out the frame for the Panthers.
Milwaukee pulled out a tight second game, never giving up the lead despite seeing it cut to one on numerous occasions. The Panthers did pull out to a 27-24 lead on a Phoenix error only to see Green Bay close back to within 27-26. A kill by Sueppel and a Green Bay service error pushed the edge to 29-27 and, after the Phoenix cut the edge to 29-28, a back-row kill by Gabrielsen wrapped things up for the Panthers.
The Phoenix got back in the match by winning the third game after leading most of the way. Green Bay led 14-8 after a UWM error and still led 19-13 after the teams traded five points. The Panthers then made a run to get back in the game, pulling within 20-18 on a Green Bay error and again to within 22-21 on a block by Gabrielsen and Sueppel. Milwaukee grabbed a 27-26 lead on a block by Peters and Sueppel, but Green Bay claimed control after that. A UWM error and a Green Bay block made it 29-27 and, after an Olson kill held off one game-point, a kill by Tesch kept the Phoenix alive in the match.
Green Bay pulled out the fourth game with a late rally. Milwaukee led 18-14 after a kill by Schmitting and extended the edge to 21-16 on an Olson kill. But, the Phoenix tied the game at 22 and then grabbed leads of 25-24 and 28-26. The Panthers rallied to tie the frame at 28 and fought off a game-point chance at 29-28 but two kills by Tesch sent the match to a deciding fifth game.
UWM will close out the regular season with a pair of road matches next weekend. The Panthers play at Wright State Friday night and Butler Saturday afternoon.