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Broncos advance to NCAA volleyball Sweet 16

Dec. 7, 2008

DAYTON, Ohio--None of the current members on the team had even been born the last time Western Michigan University won two matches in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament.

Saturday night at the Frericks Center at the University of Dayton, the 2008 WMU volleyball team defeated No. 16-ranked Tulane, 3-2, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Friday, Dec. 12, the Broncos will play defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Penn State at University Park, Pa.

Set scores for the Broncos versus Tulane were 20-25, 25-21, 13-25, 25-19 and 15-12.

"Amazing is all I can say. We've got such a great group of young women," said Bronco head coach Colleen Munson. "Western Michigan is so proud and so is the volleyball community, but what we just accomplished out there was truly great. That was a great Tulane team and a veteran team that knows how to play volleyball. We kept our composure. We weren't stellar in a couple of the games, but we brought it together when we needed to. It was a team effort all the way around."

The Broncos, 28-6 overall, advance to their fifth Sweet 16 in school history, but the first since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1998. This is only the second time in school history and first time since 1983 that WMU has won two matches in the NCAA Tournament. It is also the Broncos' first trip to the Sweet Sixteen since 1987.

Going into Saturday night's contest in Dayton, Tulane (28-6), the Conference USA regular season and tournament champions, had won 17 straight matches.

Mid-American Conference Setter of the Year Jillian Mitchell led the Broncos with her first career triple-double of 45 assists, career-high 11 kills and 11 digs. She joins former Bronco and Montana State assistant coach Jen Sulewski as the only players in school history to ever notch a triple-double.

Mitchell set an offense that saw four players join her in double figures. Junior Katie Eberling notched her 46th career double-double with 15 kills, hitting .368, and 13 digs. Junior Michelle Moore added 14 kills and 12 digs to pull within three kills of Kim Lee's school career record of 1,451. Sophomore Allyson Doyle added 12 kills, nine digs, six assists, three aces and two blocks, while sophomore Kate Corbett had 10 kills, hitting .450, and four blocks.

Two-time MAC Defensive Player of the Year Caitlin Strimel led the team with 15 digs, and WMU tied Tulane with 64 digs for the contest.

Both teams were efficient on the attack. WMU hit .333 with 63 kills and 12 errors, while Tulane hit .307 with 68 kills and 18 errors. Both teams were also aggressive at the service line. Western Michigan had nine aces and eight errors, while Tulane notched 11 aces and five errors. The Broncos did a better job at the net with seven blocks to just 2.5 for Tulane.

In the third set, the Broncos suffered their worst loss of the season in a set, 13-25, but battled back to win the fourth, 25-19, and force a decisive fifth set. Entering the contest, WMU was 4-2 in five-setters, while the Tulane was 6-1 in five-set matches.

Decisive fifth set

In the decisive fifth set, kills by Eberling and Doyle opened the scoring for WMU, but Tulane came back with three straight to take the lead. The teams then traded points and were knotted at five after a kill by Tulane. The Broncos won the next two points on back-to-back kills by Moore, and then Eberling added a kill. Moore and Jaime Gotham stuffed Tulane on the next point and Strimel added her 119th career ace to make it 10-5 WMU.

Tulane scored the next two points, but a kill by Mitchell put WMU back up by four, 11-7. Eberling hammered home another kill to give WMU match point, 14-11. Tulane fought one off, then Mitchell deftly flicked the ball over her shoulder and found the floor to send the Broncos streaming onto the court and into the Sweet Sixteen.

WMU hit .346 with 12 kills in the fifth set and held Tulane to .185 with seven kills. Eberling picked up five kills in the fifth set and Mitchell had seven digs to reach her triple-double.

Next up, the defending national champions

WMU's opponent in the Sweet Sixteen is six-time defending Big Ten champion Penn State, which has not lost a match, 34-0, or set, 102-0, this season. No. 1-ranked Penn State is the defending national champion and will be playing on its home court in University Park, Pa. Penn State is led by senior outside hitter Nicole Fawcett, who is averaging 4.6 points per set.

WMU versus Penn State is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 12.

In addition to WMU and Penn State, other schools in the Sweet Sixteen are California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa State, Michigan, Nebraska, Oregon, Purdue, Stanford, Texas, UCLA, Utah and Washington.

Broncos make history with win over Dayton

The Broncos carded their first win in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament since 1987 with a 3-1 win over host Dayton University Friday, Dec. 5. Set scores for WMU were 21-25, 26-24, 25-23 and 25-18.

The Broncos got a pair of double-doubles from junior Katie Eberling (15 kills, 14 digs) and sophomore Allyson Doyle (15 kills, 17 digs) to get past Dayton (21-13) for the first NCAA Tournament win for WMU since beating Oklahoma, 3-0, at WMU's Read Fieldhouse in 1987. It was the Broncos' first road win in the tournament since a 3-2 victory at Purdue in 1983.

Setter Jillian Mitchell led the Bronco offense with a match-high 53 assists, seven digs and two service aces. The Broncos had 58 kills and hit .205, while Dayton hit .139 with 47 kills.

Caitlin Strimel led the defense with a match-high 28 digs. The Broncos out-dug the Flyers, 85-67, with sophomore Courtney Seiler adding a career-high 12 digs.

Sophomore middle blocker Jaime Gotham hit .533 with nine kills, three aces, four digs and four blocks, while sophomore middle blocker Kate Corbett added eight kills and four blocks. Junior Michelle Moore added 10 kills for WMU.

Visit wmubroncos.com for more information and to follow the Broncos in the 2008 NCAA Volleyball Tournament.

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Media contact: Matt Holmes, (269) 387-3168, matt.holmes@wmich.edu

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