The Webster University volleyball team was a half game out of first place in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference standings entering their Oct. 22 tri-meet with Spalding University and Blackburn College at Fontbonne University.
The Gorloks propelled themselves into first place in the SLIAC by beating then conference leader Spalding 3-1 and Blackburn 3-0.
Webster finished the week 3-0 after beating Fontbonne 3-0 on the Gorloks’ senior night on Oct. 25 at Grant Gymnasium. Webster improves its overall record to 16-9 and 13-2 in the SLIAC.
The match against Spalding was the first one back for freshman outside hitter Jordan Vehlewald. Vehlewald injured her ankle in Webster’s previous match with Spalding on Oct. 7, which the Gorloks lost 3-1. The victory over Spalding meant a little more to Vehlewald.
“It was kind of like revenge,” Vehlewald said. “I was really excited to get back playing.”
Vehlewald had to sit out two weeks due to her injury, but she didn’t miss a beat. She had nine digs and three block assists and led the team with 12 kills against Spalding. She also added six kills, eight digs and four aces in the win over Blackburn. Vehlewald’s performance in the tri-meet earned her SLIAC offensive player of the week honors.
The SLIAC defensive player of the week also came from Webster. Sophomore outside hitter Liz Abraham earned the honor by recording a career-best 35 digs against Spalding. Abraham also had no errors in 27 service receptions.
Coach Merry Graf prepared the team for Spalding by emulating the Golden Eagles’ defensive style.
“We had film on them,” Graf said. “We had experience against them. We practiced pretty hard on Thursday and Friday against our scrimmage side, which was playing the same defense that Spalding did. We really worked to try to attack to the corners and middle of the court, which were the weaknesses of the defense they play.”
Webster was able to keep the Spalding offense in check by playing aggressive defense at the net. The Gorloks recorded 15.5 team blocks, as freshman middle hitter Emily Ratkewicz led the team with five solo blocks and seven block assists.
“Emily was key in the blocking,” Graf said. “She really did a great job at the net for us. Statistically speaking, you only earn a block if it goes for a point, but she gets her hands on a lot more balls than people realize.”
The victory against Spalding was a huge win for the team, but there is still work that needs to be done as the team pursues a conference championship.
“It was a big win because our team came back together,” Vehlewald said. “It gives us confidence, but we still have a big road ahead of us. Greenville, Spalding and Westminster are all pretty good teams. We just have to keep doing one game at a time.”
Webster takes on Washington University, the third-ranked team in the country, on Oct 26 at WashU. Webster goes into the game as the underdog, but Graf believes the team won’t go down easily.
“We seem to play well against good teams,” Graf said. “WashU is an excellent team. I think my team will go out and accept their role as the underdog and give them a run for their money.”
Webster travels to Rock Island, Ill., for an Oct. 29 tri-meet to face Wartburg College and Augustana College. The Gorloks conclude the regular season at Westminster College on Nov. 1 in a conference matchup.