Women’s volleyball takes NCAA regional title

The team is headed to the Elite 8

Bridget Kelley

More stories from Bridget Kelley

The Blugolds huddle around their NCAA Regional Championship plaque.

Photo by Bill Hoepner

The Blugolds huddle around their NCAA Regional Championship plaque.

The UW-Eau Claire women’s volleyball team heads to Pittsburgh, Penn. for the NCAA Elite 8 after winning the NCAA regional title against the College of Saint Benedict (Minn.) Sunday.

The Blugolds had an eventful weekend at Saint Gus Court in St. Peter, Minn., where the team took on defending national champions Claremont-Mudd-Scripps from California. The Blugolds took the victory 3-1.

Competition stayed fairly close in set one until the Athenas tied up the score 23 all. UW-Eau Claire coach Kim Wudi called a time-out, after which the Blugolds came out ahead 25-23.

Set two proved difficult for UW-Eau Claire. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps gained a 3-0 lead at the beginning of the set. The Blugolds were not fruitful in breaking that lead and gave up the set 23-25.

Set three also started with an Athena lead, which was broken by four straight kills from the Blugolds, three of which were from Arianna Barrett, a first-year, and the other from Makenzie Bachmann, a second-year. The Athenas had just regained their lead when Wudi called a time out, and the Blugolds came back with seven straight points, taking the set 25-20.


In set four, the Athenas held on to their lead, not allowing the Blugolds to pull ahead, until a kill followed by an attack error threw the team off their rhythm. The Blugolds pulled ahead, gaining a four-point lead that the Athenas were unable to break.


The Blugolds won by 8 points, taking the set 25-17 and advancing on to the NCAA Regional Championship against the College of Saint Benedict the next day.

The first set on Sunday started with a four-point Blugold lead over the College of Saint Benedict. The Bennies came back with six straight points, to which the Blugolds responded with a five-point streak. From then on, the game was neck-and-neck, until the Bennies pulled forward, and the Blugolds gave up the set 20-25.

The second set started off close, until three kills from Kendra Baierl, a second-year; Madelyn Pashibin, a fourth-year; and Madison Surprise, a fourth-year gave the Blugolds an edge over the Bennies. The Blugolds held onto that lead and took the set 25-22.

The third set started with a Bennie lead, which the Blugolds broke soon after. Another three-kill streak gave the Blugolds the edge they needed. The team took the lead and refused to give it up, taking the set 25-18.

The fourth set quickly favored the Blugolds after a four-point streak gives the Blugolds a six-point lead that the Bennies were unable to overcome. The lead grew throughout the set, and the Blugolds took the set 25-14, tallying a 3-1 victory.

Amber Karn, a fourth-year, said the team’s chemistry aids their success.

“It wasn’t any one player that stood out,” Karn said. “It was something that we talked about in the huddle — that we know what we can do and what we’re capable of, and we didn’t see that in the first game.”

The victory over the Bennies also means that the team now holds the NCAA Regional Championship title. They are headed to the Elite 8 in Pittsburgh, Penn., later this week.

Until then, the team is going to be refueling, rehydrating and refocusing, Wudi said. “We’re just going to savor every moment this week.”

Kelley can be reached at [email protected].