So close – and yet so fat – for volleyball

Tom Loftus Sports editor

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Close battles – and heartbreaking losses – seem to be the rule rather than the exception this season for the Western Illinois volleyball team.

Unfortunately for the Leathernecks, their matches last Friday and Saturday at Brophy Hall fit that profile once again.

Western (11-15, 3-12 in Summit League play) took both South Dakota and the University of Missouri-Kansas City down to the wire last weekend, only to fall just short once again.

“There was a lot of great play on both sides tonight,” said Leathernecks coach Kym McKay on Saturday, following her team’s 25-17, 23-25, 25-23, 22-25, 15-10 loss to UMKC (10-15, 4-10). Saturday was Senior Night and was also the Leathernecks’ final home match of 2011. “The final set was tough. UMKC had 13 kills, and they really took control of that set.

“Both teams are playing for pride, and we are representing Western Illinois University as well as we can,” McKay added.

The Leathernecks chalked up some impressive statistics against the Kangaroos on Saturday, setting season highs in kills (64), assists (61) and digs (106). Western seniors Cait Egan, Brooke Stittleburg and Megan Toczek combined for 38 kills and 28 digs, while fellow senior Alyssa Holum contributed 8 digs and 23 assists.

With her 11 kills on Saturday, Egan thus climbed past Western Hall of Fame volleyball player Diane Ellefritz (1987-91) into eighth place in program history in that category. Egan now has 1,046 career kills.

Junior Bridget Murphy recorded 33 digs and ranks first in the Summit League in that category with a per-set average of 6.04.

Sophomore Sarah Fetter chipped in with 30 assists, 8 digs, 3 kills and a solo block.

On Friday evening, the Leathernecks dropped a five-set heartbreaker to South Dakota, 25-20, 23-25, 25-18, 17-25, 15-11. Western had 5 aces and 11 kills in sending the match to a decisive fifth set, but the Coyotes (13-14, 6-8) came up with 12 kills in recording the decisive 4-point final-set victory.


Team triumphs may prove hard to come by this year for the Western Illinois men’s and women’s swimming diving teams. In fact, both squads are 0-5 after each dropped three meets last weekend in South Dakota.

Individual victories, on the other hand, are already becoming a habit for several Leathernecks competitors.

“The team has continued to work hard in practice, and it is showing in the pool right now,” said Western head coach Greg Naumann. “The win-loss column doesn’t always matter, as long as we can hit benchmark times and swim smart races.”

On Friday, in a triple dual meet at South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D., Western’s men’s team fell to the host Jackrabbits, 217-69, and also lost to North Dakota, 231-60. The Leatherneck women fell to South Dakota State 243-44 and also lost to North Dakota, 245-47.

At Friday’s competition, Leathernecks freshman Doug Ogilvie turned in a tremendous effort in the one-meter diving event, eventually being edged by North Dakota junior Rick Eberle for the top score, 279.80 to 275.30. Western senior captain Brandon Wilkinson took second in the 100 breaststroke. For the Leathernecks’ women’s team, senior Jamie Grau placed third in the 100 breaststroke.

At Saturday’s meet against the University of South Dakota, held at the Coyotes’ DakotaDome pool in Vermillion, S.D., the Leatherneck men’s team dropped a close 125-87 decision, while the Western women were bested by the Coyotes, 148-66.

Ogilvie led the way for Western, winning both the one- and three-meter dives. Junior Josh Davis placed first in the 400 freestyle for the Leathernecks, and freshman teammate Jacob Shain and Davis went 1-2 in the 200 butterfly. Shain was also second in the 200 individual medley. Freshman Tyler Neaveill came in just three-tenths of a second behind event winner Dane Van Arkel in the 100 freestyle, while the 200 freestyle relay team of Neaveill, Wilkinson, freshman Sam Vissers and senior Jack Killheffer also turned in a second-place effort.

For the Leatherneck women, Grau placed first in the 200 breaststroke, while senior teammate Shawn Fitzpatrick won the 200 backstroke. Sophomore diver Julia Rasmussen scored a victory for Western in one-meter diving.

Western’s men’s and women’s teams next compete at the House of Champions Invitational, hosted by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis on Friday, Nov. 11.


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