Volleyball goes to battle with Bison

Melanie+Patenaude+goes+up+for+a+kill+at+Western+Hall.

Becca Langys/ Photo Editor

Melanie Patenaude goes up for a kill at Western Hall.

David Koier, Courier Staff

MACOMB, Ill. –The Western Illinois Leathernecks (1-16) play host North Dakota State Bison (3-13) this Friday in an overall conference volleyball matchup.

Western is coming off of a very rough start to the conference season, after dropping their last two matchups three sets to none in both occasions bringing their overall conference record to 0-4. The Bison have faced similar luck winning only one match in their five conference matchups.

The Bison swept the Leathernecks last season winning six sets to Western’s one. The Purple and Gold are looking to get something going this year, as they haven’t won a match since their first matchup against the Farleigh Dickenson Knights back in August.

First year head coach, Ben Staupe, hasn’t made much of a splash since coming to a Division I program. Staupe coached previously for the NCAA Division III powerhouse the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

Last season, Staupe led the Warhawks to a 22-8 overall record bringing his career record at Whitewater to 161-53. He assisted the Warhawks to seven straight NCAA Championship appearances, which were highlighted by a spot in the Sweet 16 in the 2016 season.

So far, his success with the Purple and Gold has been limited to a single match win, while the Leathernecks have been shutout three sets to none on nine separate occasions.

Senior outside hitter Melanie Patenaude leads the Leathernecks offensively. Patenaude leads the team with 134 kills, scoring a season high 16, against the Evansville Purple Aces back on Aug. 25 in a 2-3 loss during their third game of the Leatherneck Invitational tournament. Patenaude also leads the Purple and Gold in kills per set (2.31), points (157) and service aces (14).

The front line for the Leathernecks is its strongest factor. The team has out blocked their opponents 113.0 to 105.0. Western has 17 solo and 192 assisted blocks, to their opponents 17 and 176 respectively. Western also has more blocks per set with 1.8 compared to their opponents’ 1.7.

This defensive performance has been led this season by redshirt sophomore outside hitter Mackenzie Steckler. Steckler leads the team in blocks with 59, which places her fourth on the Summit League leaderboards. She also places third in the Summit with 1.07 blocks per set, a statistic that she also leads in for Western.

Junior libero Claire Grove has been doing her job very well this season. She has covered the court and got as many digs as she can for the Leatherneck defense. With her 3.92 digs per set, which is fourth on the Summit League leaderboards, Grove leads the team with her 196 digs on the season.

With a team like the Bison, who have 624 kills so far this season; the Leatherneck defense really needs to step up their game if they want to stop the Bison offense. Western’s offense needs to get hot soon if they want a chance to make it towards the end of the year conference tournament.

The match is on Friday, and is set to start at 7 p.m. inside Western Hall.