Becca Langys/ Photo Editor
The Western Illinois University Fighting Leathernecks volleyball team opens up its conference schedule this Friday the 21st against the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota.
Western hasn’t had the strongest start to the season, posting a mere 1-12 record. The Purple and Gold’s only win came all the way back in their first match of the season on August 24th against the Fairleigh Dickinson University Knights.
The Fighting Hawks have had a bit more success in their early season matchups, posting a record of 8-7. The Fighting Hawks are coming off of a two-game winning streak at the University of South Florida classic tournament, beating the likes of the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and the University of New Orleans Privateers.
The Western offense has produced 444 kills, 417 assists, and 58 serving aces so far this year. The defense hasn’t done all that bad either producing 687 digs while out blocking their opponents 89 to 74.
Leading the team heading into the conference matchup is senior Melanie Patenaude. Patenaude appeared in 24 matches last year while starting in nine of those. She averaged 1.14 kills per along with 1.64 digs last year while recording two double-doubles (double digit kills and digs in the same match) in her playing time.
This season, Patenaude has played in all 13 matches racking up some nice statistics along the way. She leads the team in kills (110), kills per set (2.44), serving aces (13), and points (130.5).
Another player to watch out for is freshman Mariah Mitchell. Mitchell was a big recruit for the Leathernecks. The freshman was a three-time varsity letter winner in high school while being named second team all-conference team her sophomore season and was named to the first team her junior and senior seasons.
Not only was Mitchell a stellar high school volleyball player, she also lettered in both track, field, and cheerleading. While also lettering in three sports, Mitchell maintained a 4.0 GPA earning her an all-academic award her sophomore, junior and senior years.
Mitchell has brought that hard work and determination to the Leatherneck volleyball program. Though she doesn’t lead any of the statistical categories, Mitchell has still put up some impressive numbers for a freshman.
In 33 sets played, Mitchell has racked up 40 kills, 17 total blocks, and 12 digs. Mitchell is coming off of an impressive showing at the Valparaiso Crusader Classic tournament where she logged 14 kills over the weekend. She scored eight of those against the Big Red for a career high. Her performance at the tournament earned her a spot on the Crusader Classic All-Tournament team. Mitchell will have a tough challenge ahead facing off against the very tough Summit League play that awaits her this year.
The Leathernecks face off against the Fighting Hawks this Friday at Western Hall in Macomb. The first serve is set for 7 pm.