PITTSBURGH, Pa.—Sophomore Allie Puccio (New Hartford, N.Y.) led all players with 15 kills but it wasn't enough as Babson College suffered a 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-21) loss to the 14th-ranked University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in an NCAA Tournament Division III quarterfinal match on Thursday afternoon inside the AJ Palumbo Center.
Babson, which had its eight-match winning streak snapped, ends the season at 26-9 overall. Wisconsin-Eau Claire improves to 33-3 and moves on to face top-ranked Calvin College in a national semifinal on Friday. Both teams were making were making their first NCAA Tournament Elite 8 appearance.
Sophomore Gaby Miller (Miami, Fla.) had seven kills and tied for match-high honors with four blocks, while junior Kristin Carosotto (East Greenwich, R.I.) added seven kills and three blocks for the Beavers. Classmate Elizabeth Cameron (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) dished out 28 assists and first-year Maddie Malee (Orlando, Fla.) finished with 15 digs in the loss.
First-year Arianna Barrett (Lakeville, Minn.) put away 13 kills and recorded four blocks, senior Madelyn Pashibin (Minneapolis, Minn.) added nine blocks, and sophomore Makenzie Bachmann (Chaska, Minn.) finished with seven kills and 14 digs for the Blugolds, who hit .294 as a team. Senior Madison Surprise (Appleton, Wis.) led all players with 43 assists and sophomore Taylor Scalia (Lake Elmo, Minn.) totaled a match-high 19 digs in the victory.
After five early ties, Wisconsin Eau-Claire got kills from four different players and block by Barrett and sophomore Krista Meyer (Germantown, Wis.) to build a 12-7 advantage. The Green and White scored three straight points to pull within 12-10 on a block by Miller and senior Catherine Hunter (Duxbury, Mass.), but the Blugolds, who hit .343 in the stanza, rattled off eight of the next 12 points to build a 20-14 lead that it would not relinquish.
Game two featured 13 ties and five lead changes with neither side leading by more than three. Babson took its biggest lead at 13-10 on a kill by Puccio before Wisconsin-Eau Claire ripped off four straight points to regain a 14-13 edge on an ace by senior Amber Karn (Middleton, Wis.). The teams traded the next 12 points before Barrett put away a kill to make it 21-19, but the Beavers responded with kills from Cameron, Carosotto and Miller to pull even at 23-apiece. The Blugolds got to set point on a service error and sophomore Kendra Baierl (Marshfield, Wis.) followed with a kill to close out the frame.
Wisconsin-Eau Claire led by as many as four early in the third set and extended the margin to 17-12 on a kill by Bachmann before the Green and White used a three-point run that included a pair of aces by sophomore Cassidy Witten (Honolulu, Hawaii) to get within 17-15. The Blugolds responded with five of the next six points to make it 22-16 before the Beavers made one last push to close the gap to 24-21 on an ace by senior Abby Beecher (Pittsford, N.Y.).
It was as close as Babson would get though, as senior Jessica Coyne (Verona, Wis.) finished off a pass from Bachmann on the ensuing point to close out the match.
• Thursday's match was the first in program history for the Beavers against Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
• Babson's 26 wins in 2018 are the third highest total in program history behind the 2014 (28 wins) and 2015 (27) squads.
• The Green and White ended the year with a .221 hitting percentage, which is good for the best single-season mark in program history.
• Beecher graduates as the program's all-time leader in digs per set (4.47) and ranks second in total digs (1,358), while classmate Shannon Roseen (Malden, Mass.) moved into 10th place on the school's career list with 655 kills.