UWSP’s Historic volleyball run ends in national semifinals against Cal Lutheran
HOLLAND, Mich. – After three straight wins against teams ranked in the top six, the UW-Stevens Point volleyball team saw the deepest NCAA Tournament run in program history end in the national semifinals with a 3-0 loss to No. 3 California Lutheran on Friday at DeVos Fieldhouse.
The loss snapped a 24-match winning streak for the Pointers (35-6). UW-Stevens Point defeated No. 6 Saint Benedict, No. 4 St. Thomas and No. 2 Hope to get all the way to the national semifinals for the first time in school history but saw its run end against the Regals (35-1). The Pointers 35 wins this season are the most by a UWSP team since 1985 when the team went 44-15.
“Coming into this season, I really didn’t know what to expect because we were so young,” head coach Abbey Sutherland said. “I knew we had to take baby steps and thankfully they responded to my coaching and believed they could be successful. By taking it one step at a time, we were able to accomplish this great thing that we did.”
Cal Lutheran, the third-ranked team in the country, extended its winning streak to 29 matches and their lone loss came to NAIA Division-II opposition. The Regals advance to face No. 1 Calvin in the national championship match tomorrow.
“Cal Lutheran was a very good team,” said Sutherland. “They played a really solid match and it wasn’t our best day. In the past, we played one match at a time, one point at a time and I think today was the first time we realized we could be in the national title match and we didn’t play as loose. But we played really hard and I’m really proud of them.”
After an errorless performance in the win over Hope, Emma Brunkhorst (Germantown, WI/Germantown) again led the Pointers in kills with 12 and hit .323 for the match. Brunkhorst concluded the season with 496 kills, the second-most by an individual in a single season in UWSP history.
Alexis Hartman (Lake Zurich, IL/Lake Zurich) recorded 31 assists and 14 digs for UW-Stevens Point. Hannah Picel (West Bend, WI/West Bend West) had 16 digs, while Bri Piepenbrok (Merrill, WI/Merrill) added 15. UW-Stevens Point made 19 errors after committing 10 against Hope and hit .151 in the match.
The Regals were led by two-time First Team All-American Kylie Mclogan’s 19 kills, while Allie Eason, a Second Team All-American, added 10 kills. Honorable mention All-Americans Nicki Tetherow (24 digs) and Jackie Russell (47 assists) had match-highs in those categories. The Regals hit .231 in the match and hit over .280 in the first and third sets.
UW-Stevens Point hung neck-and-neck with Cal Lutheran for a set and a half. The Pointers battled back from 23-19 down in the first set to extend it after tying the score at 24-24. However, kills by Eason and McLogan gave the Regals the set 26-24.
UWSP trailed by just two late in the second set at 20-18 before Cal Lutheran won five of the final seven points to take a 2-0 lead. After a close start to the third, the Regals went on a run and eventually closed it out in straight sets.
The match was the final in a Pointers uniform for Allison Davis (Rochelle, IL/Rochelle Township), the lone senior on the UW-Stevens Point roster. Davis had eight kills and block assists in the match. She was named an honorable mention all-region and First Team All-WIAC performer in her final season at UWSP.
“I just really enjoyed spending time with Allison,” Sutherland said of Davis. “She goes out of her way to ask how I’m doing and I think she’s a wonderful person and will go on to do great things. On top of that, she’s a very athletic, dynamic player and does a lot of great things on the court with her hitting and blocking. She didn’t play club volleyball, so she’s come a long way in five years.”