Nov. 27, 2004
Special to CollegeSports.com
ROCHESTER, Minn. - The NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Championship semifinals Friday night were swept away with complete dominance by Washington University in St. Louis and Juniata College.
Last year's national champion Washington swept the University of La Verne 3-0 (30-25, 30-15, 30-25) on Friday afternoon, and then top-ranked Juniata swept New York University 3-0 (30-21, 30-25, 30-19) later in the night at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minn.
Saturday night, it's down to Juniata and Washington for the championship, while NYU and La Verne will battle for third and fourth place in the consolation match.
In an identical semifinal match and result as 2003, Washington credited energy and confidence to propelling them to the championship match for the second consecutive year. The Bears held a strong lead against for La Verne for most of the match, killing any momentum the Leopards ever established.
"I think something that was very important was establishing the early lead," Washington head coach Rich Luenemann said. "Once we did that, our confidence swelled and we just played very relaxed and very confident. Everyone played well, so it was really hard to defend us because everyone was swinging and scoring. I don't know how to defend us."
La Verne had trouble finding its way into the match through Washington's strong all-around play.
"We couldn't seem to find a groove and get back into it," La Verne senior Tricia Schary said. "I'm sure we all had a little nerves and [Washington] came out and they just wanted it more than us tonight. They came out and out-dug us, out-swung us. They just did everything better than we did."
Juniata swept NYU with similar dominance. The Eagles established a high-tempo offense that never gave the Violets a lead larger than one point, head coach Larry Bock said.
"Carli [Dale] established respect for the quick offense right away," Bock said. "And that opened up a whole lot of things. Bottom line: we played extremely well against a really good team."
As the No. 1 team in the country in the CSTV/AVCA poll, Juniata came to the Final Four knowing that they were a target and that the rest of Division III would be looking to take them down.
"Earlier this season, we had T-shirts made that said, `Hit us with your best shot,'" Juniata junior Katie Laucks said. "We know everyone's gunning for us, so we're doing anything we can to win.
NYU had its opportunity to take the match in the second game when they tied Juniata at 13-13, but the Violets wilted with the pressure from Juniata's powerful play.
"They served us very tough and our passing wasn't on, which stopped our offense," NYU head coach Ed Caesar said. "The second game was our game to make a push and we had a couple of untimely errors, which, for me, all errors are untimely. Once we lost the second game it looked like we let down a little bit. They took it to us. Juniata seemed to play a perfect match against us."
While disappointed about no longer competing for the championship title, the La Verne Leopards look forward to tonight's consolation match against NYU.
"It's not over," senior Jennifer Stout said. "Getting third in the nation, knock on wood, that's great. I don't see anything wrong with that."
La Verne will meet up with NYU in the consolation match at 5:00 p.m., then Washington and Juniata will battle for the Division III crown at 8 p.m.