Freshman Kara Bajema Leads 8-Seed Washington Through Offensive Slump

  0 Braden Keith | December 03rd, 2016 | College - Women's Indoor, Division I Mid-Major, News, Pac 12

Match Stats

The 8th-seeded Washington Huskies have qualified for 15 consecutive NCAA tournaments, and just like in the prior 14, they started the 2016 edition with a first round win.

While Washington only came up with 35 kills in a 3-set win over the Texas A&M – Corpus Christi Islanders, they also slung 9 aces and out-blocked their opponents 9-4.

The first set started out as a back-and-forth affair, with Corpus Christi holding a lead as late as 12-11. The Huskies settled in late, though, and ran of 6-straight points (5 on Bailey Tanner serves) to get on the board 1-0.

Washington played 12 different players in the game – which is the entirety of their season-long rotation. Courtney Schwan (7 kills, 3 errors, 21 attacks, .190 percentage) and Tia Scambray (4k, 3e, 17ta, .059) struggled offensively, though it was on fewer-than-normal chances. Those two are the team’s top offensive scorers this season, and they’ll need to get into a better rhythm for the team’s second-round game against Kentucky.

The Huskies ran a big piece of their offense through the middle, and Kara Bajema responded with 10 kills and a .471 hitting percentage. She also added 5 bock assists to lead the team in total scoring with 13.5 points. In her first NCAA tournament game, the freshman stepped up to the challenge to carry an overall flat offensive performance.

For Corpus Christi, their top offensive performances came from Kristyn Nicholson, who had 6 kills on an errorless 10 sets. The Islanders’ junior libero Kate Klepetka had 14 digs to extend her lead as the all-time program leader. Her defensive display played a big role in limiting Schwan and Scambray’s output.

“Obviously, it’s not the result that anyone ever wants,” said Corpus Christi head coach Steve Greene. “When you lose in the playoffs, it’s tough. It’s really tough in a one-night situation to look at your whole season. I’m really proud of the confidence we came out with, the effort we played with and I thought we did some really good things tonight.

“I think the main take away is we had a tremendous season,” continued Greene. “I thought we played well tonight. It wasn’t our best, but we played well and I’m really proud of the way these girls performed.”



Press Releases

Courtesy Washington Athletics:

SEATTLE – The Husky volleyball team started its 15th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance in the same fashion as the previous fourteen, with a round one victory. Washington won its 15th straight NCAA first round match tonight, defeating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the Southland Conference champions, 25-18, 25-14, 25-14, before 2,042 fans. The Huskies served up nine aces in the three sets and had 10 kills apiece from junior Crissy Jones and freshman Kara Bajema.

Pac-12 Champion Washington (27-4) will now take on Kentucky on Saturday night in the second round, starting at 7:30 p.m. The Wildcats (23-7) won the first match of the day at Alaska Airlines Arena, winning the final three sets after losing set one to Colorado State. Washington will be attempting to advance to the round of 16 for the fifth year in a row. Pac-12 Networks will air Saturday’s match live.

The Huskies started slow offensively but their strong serving game kept the Islanders (24-8, 16-0 Southland) off-balance as well. With a .440 attack percentage in the third set, the Huskies finished the match at .256, while Corpus Christi ended up at .067. Jones had 10 kills without an error on 17 swings for a .588 attack percentage, and Bajema hit .471 with 10 kills and five block assists.

Six different Huskies served at least one ace, led by the three from junior Tia Scambray, who added 12 digs. Junior Courtney Schwan had seven kills, 10 digs, an ace and three blocks, and freshman Shayne McPherson added 11 digs in her NCAA debut.

“Congratulations to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, not only on the season that they had, but just the way they played,” said Husky Head Coach Keegan Cook. “I thought they were a great representation of themselves, and there’s a reason why they went undefeated in their conference and why they’re here. It’s always hard to play well in this environment and I thought they did a nice job. So congratulations to them, and congratulations to (our team) for pulling it out in three sets.”

Destiny Julye got the Dawgs off and running with an ace on the first point. But the Islanders scored the next four points to take an early 1-4 lead. The Huskies came back with five in a row including kills from Jones and Bajema to go up, 6-4, but suddenly Corpus Christi responded again with a four-point run to retake the lead, 6-8. Some tough serves from Bajema sparked another 3-0 Husky run to go back on top, 10-9. A short service ace from Schwan made it 14-12 Dawgs. The teams traded sideouts for several points, with a kill from Bajema from well off the net, and then Schwan rolling one down for a 19-17 lead as the Islanders continued to hang close. An ace from Tanner and a tip kill from Jones on the right made it 22-18 Dawgs. Tanner fired another ace to make it 23-18 and Corpus Christi signaled for time. Out of the break, the Islanders overpassed the Tanner serve and Avie Niece went up to stuff it down for set point, 24-18. A stuff block on the next point by Jones and Niece capped off the 25-18 win for the Dawgs. UW hit just .143 in the set but made a dent in the Islanders with five service aces.

Bajema put one down in serve-receive to start the second set, then Jones got another Husky service ace. A couple TAMCC errors extended the UW lead to 5-1. Niece put one down off the block from Tanner for an 8-4 edge. Jones got going with a couple big kills from the right side to make it 11-8. Three straight Husky errors evened things up at 11-all and the Huskies took timeout. After a long rally out of the break, the Huskies regained the lead on a Scambray kill with a TAMCC net error, then Schwan and Bajema teamed for a block to make it 13-11. Another error on the Islanders prompted them into a timeout at 14-11 Huskies. The longest rally of the match followed out of the break, with Schwan ending it off the block, and then Scambray quickly aced the Islanders again for 16-11. Bajema put down a 50-50 ball for a kill and then the Islanders missed their set for a seventh-straight Husky point, and TAMCC took timeout at 18-11. Schwan sniffed out a tip attempt and stuffed it back down, and then Scambray dropped in another ace for the final point of what was a 10-0 Husky run from 11-all to 21-11. Niece buried a quick set at a sharp angle to get to set point at 24-14. Schwan hammered the ball to the court on the next point to wrap things up, 25-14. The Huskies hit .212 in the set and held Corpus Christi to .026, with Scambray digging 10 balls and serving two aces to spark the Dawgs.

Niece and Bajema had kills out of the middle early in the third set for a 3-2 lead, then Bajema and Scambray teamed for a block assist to make it 4-2. Tanner bump set one from outside the court back along the net to Scambray who hit off the block and down for 6-3. Jade Finau and Carly DeHoog checked in together at the 6-4 mark. Scambray served UW’s ninth ace for an 8-4 advantage. Schwan went off the block and out from a Finau set for 11-7. Tanner’s serve was overpassed and Jones hopped up to smash it back down for 12-7. A 3-0 run from the Islanders halved the lead down to 13-10, but Jones snapped that with a kill on a slide from Tanner. She terminated again from the right for 15-10 at the media timeout. Bajema continued her hot hand with a kill in transition to help UW push ahead for 18-11 and TAMCC called time. Bajema and Jones rejected another Islanders swing on the next point out of the timeout and a Corpus Christi hitting error pushed it to 20-11. Senior Kameron McLain and freshman Cailin Onosko both subbed in late in the set as the Huskies looked to close it out. Onosko registered a dig as UW made it 23-11 to force the final TAMCC timeout. McLain also scored a block assist to get the Huskies to match point at 24-11. The Islanders stayed alive for three more points, but Jones finished it off with a final swing from the right pin to take the third set, 25-14. The Dawgs hit .440 in the final frame, holding TAMCC to .036. Jones had six kills in the last set on nine swings to hit .667.

Courtesy Texas A&M – Corpus Christi Athletics:

SEATTLE – Texas A&M-Corpus Christi pushed the No. 8 Washington Huskies all night in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Islanders led in a pair of sets and were tied midway through the other, but the Huskies proved too much, sweeping the Blue and Green 25-18, 25-14, 25-14.

“Obviously, it’s not the result that anyone ever wants,” said head coach Steve Greene. “When you lose in the playoffs, it’s tough. It’s really tough in a one-night situation to look at your whole season. I’m really proud of the confidence we came out with, the effort we played with and I thought we did some really good things tonight.

“I think the main take away is we had a tremendous season,” continued Greene. “I thought we played well tonight. It wasn’t our best, but we played well and I’m really proud of the way these girls performed.”

In their second consecutive NCAA Tournament, the Islanders gave one of the top-ranked teams in the nation all it could handle. Senior Morgan Carlson ended her indoor career with the Islanders by leading the team with seven kills against the Huskies. Setter Kristyn Nicholson added another six to the offensive attack.

On the defensive side, libero Kate Klepetka was her usual self and then some. The all-time digs leader on the Island, Klepetka led all players in the match with 14 digs. Those digs came against two of the best outside hitters in the country in Courtney Schwan and Tia Scambray. The Islanders held them to .190 and .059 hitting, respectively.

Still, Washington had enough firepower to top the Islanders as Crissy Jones and Kara Bajema each racked up 10 kills to lead the Huskies.

Again, the Islanders head home to Corpus Christi yearning to make that next leap. On Friday night in Seattle, one could feel how much closer this team was to an NCAA Tournament victory, even just a single year removed from their first-ever trip.

“Looking back on my freshman year, this never would have happened,” said Carlson, who played her final indoor match as an Islander. “Everyone is bought in on this team. Everyone comes to practice ready to go and get better. The vibe is totally different and I’m proud to be a part of this team. I’m proud to be an Islander.”


The difference in the match turned out to be Washington’s runs. Behind stellar serving, the Huskies continuously found the key string of points to pull away from the Islanders.

In the first, the Islanders trailed 19-18 before the Huskies finished the set on a 7-0 run. The decisive points included two aces.

After the Islanders tied the second set at 11-11, Washington found a way to pull away from the Islanders for a 25-14 final.


The loss wraps the 2016 campaign for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi after a 24-8 campaign and a second consecutive Southland Conference title. The Islanders went 16-0 in Southland play and went 3-0 at the tournament for a second year in-a-row, running their winning streak to 38 matches against Southland opponents.

The Islanders were the first team to repeat as both regular season and tournament champions in over a decade.

To make the domination even more impressive, the Islanders dropped just seven sets in conference play this season.


• Setter Kristyn Nicholson kept the Huskies guessing, knocking down six kills in 10 attacks. She led the match with a .600 hitting percentage.
• Madi Fitzsimmons and Brittany Gilpin each floored five kills in the match.
• Erin Mulcahey and Madeleine Doud each had a pair kills.
• Mallory Moran and Claire Karsten also scored for the Islanders.


The Islanders will now transition to their second beach season in program history. Five of the six starters from this season will return in 2017 for the Islanders.


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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of Braden's first foray into sports journalism came in 2010, when he launched a swimming website called The Swimmers' Circle. Two years later, he joined as a co-founder. Long huge fans of volleyball, when Braden and the SwimSwam partners sought an opportunity to …

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