Facing tough competition in the first bracket of the University Athletic Association Championship and placing third in their four-team pool, the Rochester volleyball team earned three consecutive wins to claim victory in the consolation bracket and secure fifth place overall.

The Yellowjackets faced a talented and competitive bunch in this year’s UAA Championship, in which four of the top teams had a national ranking. Entering the tournament seeded fifth, Rochester’s pool contained the defending 2003 national champion Washington University in St. Louis, the 2004 New York State champion New York University and Brandeis University.

UR wasn’t discouraged with its pair of 3-0 losses against Washington and NYU on Friday morning.

“Anytime we play against nationally ranked competition, it only makes us better,” junior Kate Czarniak said. “Although we lost to Wash. U. and NYU, we gained valuable experience that will only help us improve.”

Friday night, the Yellowjackets came out fighting against Brandeis University. In an intense five-game match, Rochester emerged with a 30-21, 30-25, 28-30, 29-31, 16-14 victory.

Senior Liz Loveless and sophomore Susan Johnson both posted career highs with 68 assists and 38 kills, respectively. Loveless, only one assist shy of the single-match assist record of 69, also had 19 digs, four aces and one block. Johnson also had 27 digs, two blocks and one ace. Senior Grace Kraay posted 30 digs, junior Haley Massa had 19 digs with 15 kills, Czarniak had 12 digs and 10 kills and senior Kristin Vogt had 12 kills with four blocks.

With their 22nd win of the season, Rochester placed third in their pool and headed into the consolation round, which took place on Saturday. Looking to improve on last year’s seventh-place finish, Rochester was determined to maintain their fifth-place ranking in the UAA.

The Yellowjackets won their next two games, defeating Case Western Reserve University 3-0 and the University of Chicago 3-2.

In the CWRU match, Loveless had 41 assists and 19 digs. Massa had 13 kills and Vogt and Johnson both posted 11 kills. Against Chicago, Rochester came back to win their second five-game match of the tournament, winning 30-20, 25-30, 30-32, 30-23, 15-8. After losing two five-game matches to Brandeis and Chicago in previous UAA tournaments, these two extended-match victories were very satisfying.

“We remembered that so [that] when we got into that situation again this year, we really didn’t want to lose,” Loveless said. ” There was tons of intensity on the court and no one let the ball drop. Those matches are just so close and can go either way, so it’s a great feeling to come out on top.”

Mclean can be reached at amclean@campustimes.org.

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