Leathernecks fall in Valparaiso tournament

David Koier, Courier Staff

The Western Illinois Fighting Leathernecks traveled to Valparaiso University for the Crusader Classic tournament where they went winless. The Leathernecks faced the Raiders of Wright State, the Crusaders of Valparaiso University and the Cornell Big Red.

The first matchup came against Wright State on Friday where the Purple and Gold lost in three straight sets to the Raiders.

Western started the first set by battling back from a 2-0 deficit to tie it up at seven a piece. The Leathernecks found themselves down again before tying it back up at 13 all. A team high of three kills by sophomore outside hitter Emma Norris couldn’t slow the Raiders momentum down as they went on to take eight of the last nine points to win the first set 25-17.

The next set was another battle. Western found itself down 16-6 before taking nine of the next ten points thanks in part to the back to back kills of sophomore setter Cassie Hunt. Hunt and the Leathernecks’ comeback efforts were in vain as the Purple and Gold fell in the second set 25-20 taking a 0-2 deficit in the match.

The third set was a battle that the Leathernecks just couldn’t win. Wright State jumped to a 7-1 lead and didn’t look back. After two Wright State attacking errors, the Leathernecks came within four of the Raiders, but the comeback just wasn’t there. The Purple and Gold fell in the third set 25-18. Norris led the team with six kills and one block, while Hunt had four kills of her own and two serving aces as well.

The first game of Saturday saw Western face off against Valparaiso in a match that would eventually see the Leathernecks fall three sets to zero.

In the first set Western looked like they could keep the game close after tying the game at two a piece. The Raiders then proceeded to score six of the next eight points to take a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish as Valparaiso went on to win the set 25-13.

The second set was a battle similar to the ones the Purple and Gold faced the day before. After a 14-12 start in favor of Valpo, the Leathernecks tied the score up at 15 all. Valpo continued to stop Western’s momentum taking a 20-18 lead and by collecting the five of the last six points, Valpo secured a 25-19 set win.

The Leathernecks couldn’t force a fourth set as they fell in the final set of game two 25-14. Freshman Mariah Mitchell and senior Melanie Patenaude each recorded four kills with the former also tallying three blocks in the game.

The third game against Cornell looked like it would go Western’s way. After the Big Red took a quick 15-11 lead, Western went on a five-point run that saw them take the lead 16-15. That run featured three kills from Mitchell. The lead didn’t last long as Cornell fought back to win the first set 25-20.

Despite some early leads by Western in the following sets, the Leathernecks couldn’t get a win in the record books as Cornell went on to win the next two sets 25-19 and 25-22 respectively. Patenaude, Norris and Mitchell each recorded eight kills each in the final game of the tournament.

Mitchell went on to be named to the Crusader Classic All-Tournament team after logging 14 kills over the weekend.

The Leathernecks next match will be a conference play opener against North Dakota this Friday inside Western Hall in Macomb. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.