Volleyball says farewell to seniors

Taylor Jordan, Courier Staff

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MACOMB, Ill. — The Western Illinois University volleyball team concluded its 2018 season this past Sunday in the same manner in which it began, with a victory. The Leathernecks polished off a 3-1 win against South Dakota State in Western Hall.

In their final set, seniors Melanie Patenaude, Jaime Johnson, Shiah Sanders and Shaela Gray not only contributed to an eight-point comeback but they got to play in their last match in Purple and Gold.

“We’ve been playing our best volleyball the last seven to eight matches and to culminate the season with a win only strengthens that momentum. I’m excited to see what the future holds for the program and our seniors,” head coach Ben Staupe said.

After earning early points, Western had a 6-0 run to take the lead making it 17-10, in the first set. The Jackrabbits were on edge the entire second set to try to even things at 1-1, but the third and fourth frames belonged to Western. Set three captured a 10-point win (25-10) and the final displayed high emotion.

The Leathernecks traced 14-6 in set four before rallying for four unanswered points. Mackenzie Steckler was credited with either a solo block or block assist during the stretch, and a few points later, she stood behind the line to serve as her teammates posted another 6-0 run.

The rally included three assisted blocks by Sanders and a 19-17 advantage for Western.

After five ties before the match settled at 23-all as Patenaude closed the season with a pair of kills. Patenaude finished her final game with eight kills and nine digs, while Johnson added five digs, Sanders with 10 kills and six block assists and Gray withtwo kills.

Madeline Deiter guided the team with a game-high 11 kills.

“Not a lot of teams or athletes get to win the last match of their career, but I’m proud of the great team effort today that allowed the seniors to walk away with a win.”

The Leathernecks started the season off at the 2018 Hampton Inn Leatherneck Invitational where they won in straight sets against Fairleigh Dickinson. In his first match at the helm of Leatherneck volleyball, head coach Ben Staupe led the Purple and Gold to its straight-set win since Sept. 9, 2017 against Eastern Illinois.

Western Illinois volleyball began the season with a win and got to end with one too. Western finished the season 3-26.

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