Whitewater serves Blugolds a season-ending loss

The Blugolds’ remarkable season came to an end Saturday night as UW-Whitewater came into McPhee Center and handed Eau Claire a 3-1 defeat in front of the home crowd.

The previous two nights, however, proved that the Blugold women were going to do anything but roll over against the defending national champion Warhawks.

On Thursday night, the Blugolds defeated Carthage College (3-2) in a match in which they came back from a 2-1 deficit and won the fifth and deciding game 17-15.

Friday’s contest against Concordia College-Moorhead (Minn.) was just as intense as the Blugolds needed five games to beat the Cobbers. The fifth game was the perfect finish to an instant classic – after ties of 3-3, 6-6 and 9-9, the Blugolds showed their amazing character and won the final six points to win 15-9. They snapped third-ranked Concordia-Moorhead’s 19-game winning streak.

But the physical and emotional stress of Thursday and Friday night, combined with an early 2-0 deficit to Whitewater, was just too much to overcome for the Blugolds.

“We played our hearts out the last two nights … that’s a lot of stress,
physically and mentally, and they were very anxious to play tonight, it’s a definite drain,” coach Lisa Herb said. “We are fighters, and I give our team credit for fighting back.”

Even with every reason to be down, the Blugolds did not give up. They rebounded from a 30-19 loss in the second game and won the third game 30-26. However, the ‘Golds just ran out of gas at the end. In the fourth and final game, Eau Claire took a commanding 26-21 lead, only to have the Warhawks take the last 9 of 10 points to win 30-27 and advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals.

“We knew we had to fight hard and knew (Whitewater) was a really good team,” said senior Jessica Groh, who tied a school record for total blocks in a season with 182. “We never let down, we never quit, and we always tried
our hardest.”

Even Whitewater coach Stacy Boudreau had nothing but praise for the Blugolds’ effort.

“I think they played extremely well, especially since we knew Eau Claire had played long, tough games the last two nights,” Boudreau said.

Three of the four Blugold losses this season were to UW-Whitewater, and Whitewater’s Abby Schultz was just as impressed with Eau Claire’s effort.

“It’s very hard to beat a team three times in the same season, and we knew they were going to come out firing tonight,” Schultz said.

Overall, the women finished the season with a 30-4 record, their second consecutive 30-win season and best record in team history.

“I think this was an amazing season, (and) we worked really hard together,” Groh said. “We exceeded everybody’s expectations and had an excellent season.”