Two-time league Player of the Year Stephanie Henk had a match-high 18 kills to lead UW-La Crosse to a 3-1 win over UW-Oshkosh during the semifinal round of the WIAC Women's Volleyball Championship on Thursday (Nov. 2) in La Crosse.
UW-La Crosse (20-6), the WIAC Championship's top seed, beat fifth-seeded UW-Oshkosh (20-15) in set scores of 25-13, 23-25, 25-15, 25-18.
The Eagles will host the title match of the WIAC Championship on Saturday (Nov. 4) against third-seeded UW-Whitewater (22-7), which earned a trip to the league championship match with a 3-1 victory at second-seeded UW-Eau Claire (17-11) on Thursday.
UW-Oshkosh, which won at least 20 matches for the sixth straight season, will learn Monday (Nov. 6) whether it receives one of 20 at-large berths to the 64-team NCAA Division III Championship. The Titans, who earned an at-large bid to the national tournament last year, have made 17 Division III Championship appearances.
UW-La Crosse, which defeated UW-Oshkosh by a 3-0 score on Sept. 20, owned advantages during Thursday's matchup in kills (56-39), hitting percentage (.276 to .177), assists (51-38), service aces (13-1), digs (60-54) and blocks (11-7). UW-Oshkosh entered the contest ranked second in the country with 265.5 blocks.
The Eagles collected 16 kills on .323 hitting in the second set and 19 terminations on a .405 attack rate in the fourth frame.
Kathryn Maas added 10 kills and eight blocks for the Eagles, who also received 13 digs apiece from Halle Barnabo and Marisa Johnson. Maddie Entinger contributed 47 assists and 11 digs for UW-La Crosse.
Tina Elstner paced UW-Oshkosh with 10 kills.
UW-La Crosse never trailed in the opening set and extended its advantage to 11-5 with five consecutive points. Another string of five unanswered points gave the Eagles an 18-8 advantage, and UW-La Crosse maintained a lead of at least nine points for the rest of an opening frame. UW-La Crosse owned an 11-5 edge in kills while outhitting the Titans, .233 to .000, in the first set.
The Eagles raced out to an 8-5 lead in the second set and held an 18-15 advantage before UW-Oshkosh tallied five consecutive points, including two kills apiece from Renee Rush and Brianna Witter, for a 20-18 lead. UW-La Crosse reclaimed a 23-21 lead with a block and a service ace, but UW-Oshkosh responded with consecutive kills by Shelby Coron and Jaeke to knot the set for the seventh and final time at 23. The Titans then continued their four-point run to cap the set with a kill from Elstner and an Eagles attack error.
UW-La Crosse scored nine of the first 12 points during the third set before increasing its lead to 21-9 on a kill by Lanie Hoeffel. The Titans pulled within 21-5 following a double-block from Witter and Carly Lemke, but the Eagles closed out the frame with four consecutive points, including a service ace by Henk on set-point.
The Eagles recordeed their last ace of the match on a serve by Barnabo that provided UW-La Crosse a 10-4 advantage in the fourth set. UW-Oshkosh cut its deficit to 17-13 following a UW-La Crosse attack error. However, the Eagles closed out the match with eight of the final 10 points, including the final two on kills by Henk and Jessica Jablonski.
UW-Oshkosh's loss snapped its season-best, seven-match winning streak. The Titans, who last suffered a setback on Oct. 14, went into the WIAC Championship with the league's longest active winning streak.