Tommie volleyball stepped up big in the clutch Friday, and the reward was a ticket to Saturday's NCAA championship match.
The No. 8-ranked Tommies (39-1) pulled out three close wins to eliminate No. 9-ranked Elmhurst (Ill.) in Friday's national semifinals in Holland, Mich. UST outlasted the Jays 25-22, 25-23, 26-24 and extended its season win streak to 34.
The Toms will play No. 1-ranked Calvin at 6 p.m. on Saturday for the championship. Calvin, just 37 miles away from its campus, helped put 2,000 in gthe stands for its 3-1 win over No. 5-ranked Christopher Newport.
The Tommies are the first MIAC team to reach the NCAA volleyball championship match, and UST set a conference season record with its 39 victories.
The Tommies have won nine consecutive sets in the postseason since dropping the opening set to St. Ben's last Saturday in the regional final.
The Tommies rewarded Coach Thanh Pham (287-63), who triumphed in his 350th match in 10 seasons at St. Thomas. St. Thomas improved to 13-3 in NCAA playoff competition over the last four seasons.
UST had an unusually balanced stat sheet. Sophomore Jill Greenfield had 11 kills and 11 digs for her 31st career double-double. Senior Kaiti Wachter had 24 digs; soph Kelly Foley had eight kills and four blocks; juniors Paige Brimeyer and Nicole Potts each had seven kills; junior Mackenzie Piechowski had six kills and two blocks; and junior Katie Maher had 18 assists and seven digs.
In the first set, St. Thomas rallied from a 14-5 deficit to stay close, then used a 9-3 run to close out a 25-22 win. Set two was even throughout as the Toms got a kill to end it, 25-23. UST trailed 23-22 in the third set but scored the last three points to end the match.
Click here for box score: