Dec. 4, 2009
LINCOLN, Neb. -- In its first post-season competition since 2002, the Washington State volleyball team ended its season with a 26-24, 25-21, 25-20 loss to No. 20 Northern Iowa in the first round match of the NCAA Championship tournament at the Nebraska University Coliseum Friday afternoon.
WSU (18-13) was led by freshman Rachel Todorovich with a career-high 15 kills, a .556 hitting percentage (0 errors on 27 attacks) and 10 digs. Sophomore Meagan Ganzer added 13 kills. Kelly Hyder led the Cougs with 13 digs and Renee Bordelon had 35 assists. Brittany Tillman had five kills and led the match with five blocks.
Shannon Aschoff and Michelle Burrow combined for 26 kills to lead Northern Iowa (31-2). Ellie Blankenship led the match with 18 digs. Bre Payton added 38 assists and 14 digs. Krista DeGeest and Payton each had two blocks.
"I was concerned with the confidence that they (Northern Iowa) had coming in," Cougar Head Coach Andrew Palileo said after the match. "Any time a team comes in with that type of winning streak (28 matches), you always come in with a sense of air and confidence. Even if they fell behind, I knew they were going to be a tough team to overcome from the standpoint of just their defense, especially in the first set, I was impressed with that. Their hitters did a good job of using our blockers in certain situations and I thought they came out ready to play a little bit more than we did. They made some plays when they needed to in that first set and that really set the tone for what they really wanted to try to do against us and put us on our heels a little bit. So I give a lot of credit to UNI."
UNI Head Coach Bobbi Peterson said, "There were a lot of things we thought we needed to do in order to be successful and I think our kids really stepped up and did those things. I think I've talked all year about our defense and what our defense has been able to do. I really thought they did a nice job of putting pressure on Washington State. We've seen physical kids all year, but when you look through their lineup they are very big and physical. The other thing is they were in system a lot and we tried to get them out of system with our serve, but I thought they did an excellent job of passing. It really put a lot of stress on our defense; I thought we did a nice job of committing when we were supposed to and our defense going one on one with their hitters. I also thought that on the other side of that, our offense was probably the best it has been in transition all year. To me it was a good team effort."
WSU took a 13-7 lead in the first set only to see it disappear and UNI scored eight of the next 11 points to leave the Cougs with a 16-15 lead. Ganzer landed an attack out of the WSU timeout but UNI grabbed two quick points off of WSU errors and tied the set at 17-all. This time the Cougars went on the run, scoring five of the next seven points to take a 22-19 lead. UNI came out of a timeout and Burow landed an attack and a tip while Bordelon had the block for the Cougs. With WSU up 23-21, attacks by Aschoff and Payton tied it up at 23-all. Ganzer's kill put WSU serving for set at 24-23 but the Cougars committed three consecutive attack errors and UNI took the first set 26-24. WSU hit .130 for the set while UNI hit .188. Todorovich had six kills and hit .545 in the opener. Aschoff (.444) and Burow each had five kills for the Panthers
Northern Iowa jumped out to a 15-8 lead and the Cougars fought back to within three at 22-19 but could not close the gap any further. Tillman had two kills at the end of the set but WSU lost 25-21. Panther setter Bre Payton had four kills and hit .375 for the set while Burow had four kills and hit .400. Albright had five kills in the second set and Todorovich had four kills and hit .667. UNI hit .357 and WSU hit .191.
WSU took an 12-9 lead to open the third set but Northern Iowa scored four consecutive points for a 13-12 lead. The teams tied at 14 and at 17 when UNI tallied three straight for a 20-17 lead. The Cougars could only score two more points as the Panthers went on to a 25-20 win. Todorovich added five more kills and hit .500 in the set while Ganzer had five kills and hit .375. UNI was led by Burow and Discher's four kills.
Cougar Todorovich was asked after the match about being on the team that made it to the NCAAs after seven years, "It was definitely a process. I thought the freshmen came in really looking up to the seniors and taking on their leadership on how Palilieo's system worked. Coach Palileo threw us into that system in the summer, which really got us going. It was a lot easier. A lot of credit goes to the other players and just how they helped us to bring us to the next level."
COUGAR NOTES: Senior Kelly Hyder ends her four-year career with a school-record 1,773 digs. Senior Renee Bordelon ends her two-year career with 2,093 assists, sixth-best on WSU all-time standings. Senior Jackie Albright ends her four-year career with 998 digs, eight-best on the WSU career digs list. Senior Cassie Robbins ends her four-year career with 49 solo blocks, 299 block assists and 348 total blocks, all 10th on the WSU career standings. Freshman Oceana Bush tallied 531 digs this season, second-best in WSU's single season standings.
MORE QUOTES FROM THE WSU-UNI FIRST ROUND MATCH: Coach Palileo: On UNI's style of play compared to other teams Washington State has played this year "We've played teams like UNI - Missouri and Utah and even Oregon and UCLA. But they (UNI) are just a little smaller, so some of the places they were using us was along our triceps down here, so we were trying to adjust the block a little bit so we were trying to touch the ball with our hands and not get too them so much. They're a good team. Again, winning 30 matches is always a great accomplishment, but we had a few problems with their outsides swinging."
On UNI's blocking adjustments "I think we kind of helped them out a little bit because we didn't pass the ball very well and if you look at our season stats, our middles are really involved with our offense. We weren't passing bad as far as getting aces, but we were passing the ball 10 to 12 feet off of the net, which takes our middles away and they were already trying to take our middles out of the match. We had to become outside-heavy. They did a good job picking up. Ellie (Blankenship) does a good job with digging up those balls back there and she swallowed up a lot of them. Once they put that in there, they just kind of tooled and worked the ball around the block and just dictated what lanes they were going to hit the ball to based on what we were setting up."
Renee Bordelon: On what it was like to make the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2002 "I'm happy with our season, but it's hard to be happy right now. I know the seniors and I put in a lot of hard work, as well as everybody else that was here the last two years, to build up to where we were this year. It's just hard for me right now to put a smile on my face. I am happy about some of the accomplishments we have done. It's been a fun season. It's been really fun playing under the Pac-10 Coach of the Year as well as some of the other awards my teammates have gotten this year. Kudos to them."