LINCOLN, Neb.---The University of Cincinnati volleyball team overcame a two-game deficit to force a deciding game five, but the comeback came up just short as Arizona State ended the Bearcats season in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. The defeat ends the Bearcats season at 23-9, while Arizona State improves to 15-11 and advances to the second round of the Tournament.
Julie DuPont led the Bearcat offense with 25 kills, while Bonita Wise had 16 and Trish Ladusaw 12 in the latter two’s final match as Bearcats. Julianna Escobar (23) and Julia Leddy (22) led five Sun Devils in double-figure kills.
Game one was an epic battle that featured 14 ties, 12 of them after the two teams had each reached 20. The two teams traded points early, knotting the score at two all, before back-to-back Bearcat blocks pushed Cincinnati to a two-point lead. A Leslie Newell kill made it a four-point edge at 7-3. The Bearcat edge was five at 10-5 after Ladusaw’s first kill of the match.
The Sun Devils came roaring back with a 5-2 run that cut the Cincinnati lead to two. Escobar heated up during the spurt notching three kills. The Bearcats lead was never greater than two, before Arizona State tied the game at 20 apiece.
The squads traded points back and forth until Arizona State took game point at 29-27, forcing a Bearcat timeout. The Bearcats fought back, though with a Torblaa kill and a Ladusaw kill knotting the contest again at 29. Cincinnati fought for game points at 30-29, 31-30 and 32-31, while holding off another Sun Devil game point.
After a DuPont kill made it 33-33, the Sun Devils responded with a kill by Escobar and a block by Smith and Harris to close out game one. The Sun Devils held a hitting edge in game by a .288 to .177 margin. DuPont’s seven kills paced Cincinnati in game one.
Arizona State jumped out of the box strong in game two, holding an early 4-2 lead. But a Ladusaw kill and two by DuPont gave Cincinnati their first lead at 5-4. That edge was short lived though, as three straight Leddy kills gave the Sun Devils a 7-5 lead. The Bearcats got back within one on three occasions, before Arizona State erupted on a 14-6 run that opened its lead to a game-high eight at 27-19. Leddy continued to scorch the Bearcats during the spurt with three more kills, while Mehlhorn, connected on five kills of her own.
By the end of the second game, Arizona State was outhitting the Bearcats, .347 to .212, led by Leddy’s 15 kills and .591 hitting percentage. DuPont was keeping pace in the kills department, carding a team-high 14 by the end of two games.
The start to game three was all Bearcats as a Ladusaw kill began an 11-5 Cincinnati run to force a Sun Devil timeout. Conference USA’s top blocking team, got three points on the blocks during the spurt to go with two kills each by Ladusaw, Wise and DuPont to stake the six-point advantage.
The Bearcats continued to put the pressure on Arizona State, forcing the Sun Devils into another timeout after taking a 20-12 lead. Wise led Cincinnati through that stage of game three with a pair of kills, with four ASU errors also contributing to the Bearcat push.
Cincinnati built its lead to 10 at 22-12, before Arizona State took over control of the game. The Sun Devils put together a 10-1 run to cut the Bearcats’ lead to just one, forcing Sunahara to call his second timeout of the game.
The Bearcats battled through the remainder of game three, riding DuPont and Wise to a 30-27 win. Three kills by DuPont and a kill and a block by Wise, left the score 29-27 and Newell finished off the game with her seventh kill of the match.
For the first time in the match, the Bearcats outhit the Sun Devils, holding a .333 to .261 edge in game three. DuPont added six more kills in game three, while Wise had five.
The fourth game was more of the same for Cincinnati, as they never trailed after 1-0. Four Wise kills in the early going helped the Bearcats to an 18-12 lead and forced a Sun Devil timeout. The Bearcats jumped on the backs of DuPont and Ladusaw down the stretch, as the duo combined for five kills to lead the Bearcats to a convincing 30-19 game four win.
The story of the fourth game was the Sun Devil hitting, as the Bearcats limited ASU to -.022. DuPont was up to 23 kills by the end of the fourth stanza, while Wise had 14 and Ladusaw 12.
The Cincinnati comeback came up short in the fifth game, as two kills by Leddy helped the Sun Devils open an early 6-3 lead and force a Cincinnati timeout. Coming out the break, it was more of the same as Arizona State opened a lead of as much as six, before scoring four of the last five points to close out the 15-10 win.
· With 20 digs, Trish Ladusaw ends her career with 2,074, the most in Conference USA history and second most in NCAA history.
· Julie DuPont’s 25 kills marks the 13th time this season she has tallied over 20 kills.
Head Coach Reed Sunahara
“Its tough being in this seat right now. I am very proud of this team, they never gave up. We gave a good effort but just came up short. When we came back in games three and four, I thought we had the momentum going to gave five. Its tough losing the first game. We let them back into that game and they won, but we came back strong.”
Senior Bonita Wise
On game five
“We made errors and started to slow down. They made errors but we couldn’t capitalize.”
Senior Trish Ladusaw
On game five
“It hurts to get down in a 15-point rally game. We had it in our minds to fight, but we came up short.”