CHICAGO, Ill. -- The Brandeis volleyball team improved one spot on their seeding at the 2009 University Athletic Association championships at the University of Chicago. Seeded seventh, the Judges finished in sixth place. Coach Michelle Kim's squad played extremely well even in their losses. In their 15 sets played over the weekend, 11 were decided by five points or less, with four three-point sets and three sets decided by two points.
The Judges dropped a pair 3-0 decisions on day one of pool play of the 2009 UAA Championships. They fell to the defending UAA and NCAA champions, second-seeded Emory, 25-16, 25-21, 25-21, in the opener. Against host and third-seeded Chicago in the second match, the Judges fell just short, losing three sets by a combined six points, 25-23, 27-25, 25-23. In seven sets against the Maroons this season, the Judges lost five of them by two points.
Against Emory, the Judges were paced by junior outside hitter Paige Blasco (Greeley, Colo./Frontier Acad.), who had 12 kills and a team-high .258 hitting percentage (12 K, 4 E, 31 TA). Rookie libero Anna Homitsky (Pittsburgh, Pa./Seneca Valley) led the way defensively with seven digs, while junior setter Abby Blasco (Greeley, Colo./Frontier Acad.) added 26 assists.
In the Chicago match, Paige Blasco and junior middle blocker Nicole Smith (Marietta, Ga./Alan C. Pope) tied for team-high honors with 10 kills apiece. Smith swung for an outstanding .562 percentage (10 K, 1 E, 16 TA) and also had three blocks (two solo). The Blasco sisters tied with senior outside hitter Piera Carfagno (Los Angeles, Calif./Campbell Hall School) for team-high honors with eight digs each.
On day two, the Judges bounced back to earn a berth in the fifth-place match as they upset sixth-seeded Carnegie Mellon University, 25-13, 25-18, 27-29, 25-16. Paige Blasco came just one kill shy of matching her season-best performance. She had 20 kills, the fourth time this campaign she reached that plateau. Paige also led the squad with 13 digs, giving her her 10th double-double of 2009. Senior Bridget McAllister (Santa Clara, Calif./Presentation) had a fine performance with 11 kills without an error in 30 attempts for a .367 hitting percentage. McAllister also had three service aces and four blocks (three solo). Abby Blasco also recorded a double-double with 46 assists and 10 digs, her team-leading 14th double-double of the season. Smith had a nother fine match with eight kills and one error in 19 attempts for a .368 percentage, while recording six blocks (two solo).
In yet another tight match, the Judges fell to head coach Karen Chambers Farrell '93 and Case Western Reserve in the fifth-place match in five sets. All five sets were decided by five points are less, and four of them were three-point sets, as the Spartans earned the 25-22, 20-25, 25-22, 22-25, 15-12 victory. The Judges had a number of fine statistical performances. Abby Blasco recorded a triple-double, the first of her career. In addition to 42 assists and 12 digs, she recorded a career-high 11 kills in the match. Meanwhile, Smith, the UAA leader in blocks headed into the tournament, had a career-high 11 (one solo), just missing a double-double with nine kills. Paige Blasco led the team with 17 kills and 17 digs for her second double-double of the day, while Carfagno was a third Judge in double figures with 12 kills.
Brandeis wraps up the regular season with a record of 18-16, going 2-9 in conference play. They learn if they are headed to the ECAC tournament on Monday.
For complete results from the UAA Championships, please visit the University of Chicago's tournament website.