Volleyball continues conference play with double header in North Dakota

David Koier, Courier Staff

 

The Western Illinois University Volleyball team (4-11, 1-1) will not be at home for Homecoming weekend. Instead, the team travels throughout the state of North Dakota to face both the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota (8-8, 0-2) and the Bison of North Dakota State (5-9, 0-2).

The Leathernecks have yet to face a conference foe at their home court so far this season. They only have one home matchup for that matter which came in the form of a 3-0 loss to the Drake Bulldogs back on September 10th.

The Summit League play is still fresh with the Leathernecks sitting tied for third with an even 1-1 record. The Purple and Gold’s loss came in their Summit League opener against the Mastodons of Purdue Fort Wayne in which the Mastodons were able to get the clean 3-0 sweep.

Western’s win came this past Sunday when the Leathernecks traveled to Brookings, S.D. to face off against the Jackrabbits of SDSU. Western quickly fell behind to the Jackrabbits after a 25-19 loss in set one.

Set two looked to be in favor of the Jackrabbits once again, but a seven point rally by the Leathernecks gave the team an 11-10 lead. Back and forth for the rest of the set, SDSU up by three almost saw the Purple and Gold take the set when Western scored four straight bringing the score to 24-23. Western couldn’t hold on though, and the Jackrabbits took set two 26-24.

Western has been down 2-0 in multiple situations this season with many of them ending in a clean 3-0 sweep. Sunday, however, was not the same. A hard fought back and forth third set put the Leathernecks on the board with a 25-22 victory. Western rode that momentum wave straight to the fifth set with a 25-11 routing of the Jackrabbits in set four. Western completed the comeback in dramatic fashion with a 15-13 fifth set victory.

Western’s defense had a nice showing in Brookings, as they have all season. The front line duo of Mackenzie Steckler and Mariah Mitchell led the defense to an astounding 15 team blocks with both of them recording seven total blocks each.

Western’s blocking has been a key to their success all season. They lead the Summit League in blocks in conference play with 24 against Summit opponents. Overall, they are tied for second with 124 total this season. Individually, the duo doesn’t rank too bad in the Summit. Steckler leads the conference (and also happens to be eighth in the country) with 81 total and also ranks 14th in the nation in blocks per set with 1.50. Mitchell sits tied for 12th with 41 total blocks.

Mitchell is not only a force to be reckoned with on defense, she forms quite the duo on offense with senior JoJo Kruize. The duo not only lead the team in kills with 130 for Mitchell and 119 for Kruize, but they rank 11th and 18th in the Summit League, respectively.

The Purple and Gold will travel to North Dakota this weekend to hopefully build off of their comeback victory over SDSU. The Leathernecks face off against the Fighting Hawks this afternoon at 4 p.m. They finish their weekend trip on Sunday at NDSU at 1 p.m.

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