Panthers Ride Stellar Defense To Semifinal Sweep Of Valpo
Nov. 21, 2009
CLEVELAND, Ohio - The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee collected 17 blocks and made a stirring third-set comeback to claim a 25-14, 26-24, 25-23 win over Valparaiso Saturday afternoon in the semifinals of the Horizon League Volleyball Championships at Woodling Gymnasium.
The third-seeded Panthers (15-14) have now won 10 matches in a row and will face top-seeded Cleveland State in Sunday's championship.
After winning the first two sets, UWM trailed 19-10 in the third frame. But the Panthers scored 12 points in a row to turn things around before wrapping things up on a kill by Kerri Schuh.
Schuh and Jena Berg each had nine kills apiece to lead Milwaukee, which was sparked throughout by its great defense. In all, the Panthers wound up forcing Valpo into 30 hitting errors and a .071 hitting clip. Natalie Schmitting had a collegiate-high 11 blocks to lead the way.
The Panthers dominated the first set. UWM jumped out to an 8-2 lead and never gave up the advantage. Valpo did pull back within 8-6 but three in a row restored an 11-6 lead and the Panthers cruised from there. Three blocks in a row extended the lead to 16-8 and two more Valpo errors made it 18-9. Later, a kill by Mary Beth O'Brien, a block by O'Brien and Sueppel and a VU service error put Milwaukee ahead in the match.
The second set was much tougher, but the Panthers used a late surge to pull it out. Milwaukee built an 8-5 lead but Valpo fought back for a 14-12 advantage. The Crusaders' lead eventually grew to three and Valpo had a pair of set-point opportunities, but UWM had the final key surge. A block by O'Brien and Schmitting fought off the first set-point and then a VU error knotted things at 24. Another block from O'Brien and Schmitting pushed Milwaukee to set-point and then a ball from Schmitting found its way to the ground, giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead in the match.
Valpo struck back with a solid performance in the third set and looked ready to extend the match. But, Milwaukee countered with an amazing run to close things out. The Crusaders jumped out to a 7-3 lead and eventually pushed the edge all the way to 19-10. It was all Panthers from there, though, with a season-best run of 12-straight points. UWM had three blocks during the burst, which also included a pair of kills by Berg. VU actually scored three in a row to tie things at 22, but Milwaukee wasn't going to let it get away. A kill by Schuh put the Panthers back in front and a VU error pushed things to match-point. Angie Porche kept Valpo alive with a kill before Schuh countered with a kill of her own to send Milwaukee into the championship match.
UWM will be looking for its sixth league tournament title and eighth NCAA Tournament berth in the title match Sunday. The contest will be a rematch of last year's final, which saw Milwaukee pull out a 3-2 win over Cleveland State.