Heads or tails?
Webster University volleyball coach Merry Graf had to make this important call to determine whether her team would have home-court advantage in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament.
On Oct. 31, Webster and Greenville College were tied atop the SLIAC standings, with each team having one match left to play. The two teams were also tied in the seven possible tiebreakers. The eighth and final tiebreaker is a coin toss.
SLIAC commissioner Will Wolper had a conference call with the coach and athletic director of each school to perform the coin toss. Webster coach Merry Graf got to choose heads or tails because Webster had lost fewer games in conference play than Greenville.
“It was a gut feeling to go with heads,” Graf said.
Heads was the right call, and it ultimately allowed Webster to host the SLIAC tournament.
“I remember when we wrote these procedures in the administrative council,” Graf said. “Everybody was like, ‘Oh, there’s no way it’ll ever get to that coin toss,’ and here we are.”
The coin toss came into effect when Webster and Greenville both won their final conference matches of the season on Nov. 1 and finished with 14-2 records in the SLIAC. Webster defeated Westminster College 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-21), and Greenville beat Eureka College 3-0. Webster ends the regular season with an overall record of 17-12.
Webster will host the SLIAC tournament on Nov. 5, and sophomore outside hitter Liz Abraham couldn’t be happier.
“It’ll be really exciting to have all of our fans there,” Abraham said.
Freshman outside hitter Jordan Vehlewald agreed and added that it will be an advantage.
“It’s a big advantage because we get everyone from our school and fans to come,” Vehlewald said. “I’m excited to play on our home court.”
Graf said the Gorloks play well in their home gym because it’s where they’re comfortable.
“They like playing in our gym and having our fans in their normal spot,” Graf said. “We’re pretty comfortable at home. We only have one loss this year so far at home, so that bodes well.”
Before beating Westminster, Webster had lost three straight matches against tough opponents. The Gorloks lost 3-0 at Washington University, the No. 3 team in the country, on Oct. 26. Webster also lost two matches in the Augustana College tri-meet on Oct. 29 — to Wartburg College 3-1 and Augustana 3-2.
“It can be a little challenging to play a team like WashU, who’s ranked in the top five in the country,” Graf said. “We had nothing to lose. In game three we played more relaxed and more like the team we know.
“We struggled a little bit on Saturday. We played Wartburg, who is a very tough team. We had a couple games where we played very well against them. Unfortunately in game four we kind of fell apart and crumbled a little bit, and we didn’t start fresh against Augustana.”
The win against Westminster bodes well for the Gorloks as they have a rematch with the Blue Jays in the first round of the SLIAC tournament. Webster, the No. 1 seed, plays Westminster, the four seed. Greenville, the two seed, plays third-seeded Principia College. Both semifinal matches and the championship will be played at Grant Gymnasium on Nov. 5.
Graf labeled this week as peak week, so it was important for the Gorloks to beat Westminster in the last match of the season before the SLIAC tournament.
“This is the time of year when you want them to be peaking,” Graf said. “This is what we want, to have everything come together right here and right now. We’ve had moments of brilliance throughout the year. It’s not always been consistent for us. Hopefully this week is when it all comes together.”
The players have bought in to this philosophy as well.
“This is going to be our peaking week,” Vehlewald said. “We’ll raise the bar really high and play really well.”
Last year, Greenville ended Webster’s four-year run of SLIAC championships. The Gorloks will look to take back the conference championship.
“I think it’d mean a lot to all of us,” Vehlewald said. “I’m really excited because we have a really good chance at getting it.”