Defense Sparks Panthers To League Semifinal Sweep Of Valpo
Nov. 19, 2011
MILWAUKEE - Elizabeth Egerer had 12 kills and Rachel Neuberger added 10 as the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee advanced to the championship of the Horizon League Volleyball Tournament with a 25-21, 28-26, 25-17 win over Valparaiso Saturday afternoon at the Klotsche Center.
The Panthers (24-4), who have now won a school-record 17-straight matches, will face Cleveland State in the title match Sunday at 1 p.m.
UWM pulled away late in the first set and claimed a thrilling win in the second frame. The Panthers then had an easier time of it in the third set, clinching a trip to the league final for the ninth time. UWM also avenged a loss to Valpo in last year's semifinals in Milwaukee, while the Panthers are one way away from their ninth trip to the NCAA Tournament.
"The team was very prepared and very focused and had to earn the win," UWM head coach Susie Johnson said. "I'm really proud of the team. It was a tough match and to get of there in three was really good."
Milwaukee's defense was superb, as the Panthers tallied 70 digs and 10 blocks in holding Valpo (20-14) to a .087 hitting clip. Four players reached double figures in digs, as Morgan Potter had 18, Kayla Price 16, Taylor Golabowski 15 and Kerri Schuh 12. Neuberger led the team with five blocks as the Panthers forced 23 hitting errors.
"That's making such a difference, having the block up there so solidified," Johnson said. "It makes such a difference for our defense, it's intimidating for hitters and we're really in a groove with that."
UWM recovered from a slow start to win the first set. Valpo scored seven of the first eight points of the match but the Panthers settled in from there. UWM tied things at 12 on a kill by Egerer and took the lead for good at 18-17 on a kill by Neuberger. The lead grew to 20-17 on a Valpo error and 24-20 on a Milwaukee block. The Panthers then wrapped things up on a Schuh kill.
Both teams had chances to win the second set before Milwaukee finally pulled it out. The Panthers built a 12-8 lead on an Egerer kill and then had a 23-19 advantage following four-straight points from Neuberger. Valpo fought back to tie the frame at 24 and then had a pair of set-point chances. But Milwaukee was able to escape. A Mackenzie Millis kill tied the set at 26 and then an ace by Anna Bartz followed by a looping kill to the back line from Julie Kolinske pushed the Panthers ahead by two sets.
Milwaukee wrapped up the match by controlling the third set. The Panthers took the lead for good at 11-10 on a kill by Kolinske and then led 19-12 following another Kolinske kill. Milwaukee's advantage hit 23-14 on a Valpo error and the Panthers' final two points came courtesy of a kill by Egerer and a VU error.
Now, the Panthers will try to win their seventh league tournament title and third in the last four years.
"We're so excited to get to play tomorrow and fight for the championship," Johnson said. "This team is very ready."