Volleyball team falls in championship

The UW-Eau Claire volleyball team finished the weekend three points shy of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament trophy. In the final round of the WIAC championship tournament, the Blugolds played against the team with which they shared the title of co-champions of the WIAC, the UW-Oshkosh Titans.

In order to advance to the finals, the Blugolds had to first beat the UW-Stout Blue Devils on Tuesday, Nov. 4. Following the three game sweep of the Blue Devils, the top-seeded Blugolds became the hosts of the remainder of the tournament.

On Friday, Nov. 7, the Blugolds played the UW-Whitewater Warhawks. Earlier in the season the Warhawks defeated the Blugolds, ending their run at perfection in the WIAC championship tournament, resulting in a co-championship between the Blugolds and the Titans. Eau Claire avenged the loss earlier in the season with a 3-1 victory that punched the team’s ticket into the finals.

“We both played good games last time,” senior Katie Fox said. “This time we just played better.”

In the match against the Warhawks, the Blugolds lost the first game 20-25, but quickly rebounded. In the second game the Blugolds won 25-23 and they continued to win the fourth game 25-19. Senior Abby Freiborg, who was named WIAC volleyball Scholar Athlete earlier in the night, recorded 13 kills to go along with her match-high 16 digs. Sophomore Emily Zupon and senior Jenna Weber each added 11 kills. Senior Emily Haese tallied 48 assists and 14 digs, which matched junior Lindsey Smith’s dig total.

“Our fans were tremendous support,” Fox said. “However, it all boiled down to how we played.”

On Saturday, the Blugolds played against the Titans in the final round of the tournament. The team entered the game as winners of 14 of its past 16 games, but could not pull away in the end. In the first game, the Blugolds trailed early 8-14, and the Blugolds were unable to come back, eventually losing 21-25. The Blugolds came back in a back-and-forth second game, winning 25-23. The Titans came back and won game three, 17-25. The Blugolds once again rebounded, taking the fourth game.

In game four, the Blugolds found themselves trailing 8-13 early; however, the Blugolds took the lead at 22-21, and eventually forced a decisive game five. Eau Claire trailed early in the fifth game, which is played to 15 points, and never recovered. The 12-15 loss dropped the Blugolds to 23-11 overall.

“Oshkosh was a great team, they definitely came to play,” Freiborg said. “Maybe we’ll meet in regionals. If we do, we’re going to be ready to bring it.”

Freiborg, who was also named WIAC player of the year, recorded a team high 14 kills. Haese added 38 assists and Smith added 19 digs.

“We’re really (similar) to the softball team,” Freiborg said. “When you look at their record, they didn’t win conference, but they won the national championship. Nobody on this team is giving up yet.”

The Blugolds are forced to wait and find out if they earn an at-large bid into the NCAA championships. Freiborg is excited to keep playing.

“Whatever the NCAA decides to hand us, we’ll take it.”

As of 10 p.m. Sunday night, the results were not released for the NCAA tournament. For results check the Spectator web site at www.spectatornews.com.