It was an up-and-down opening weekend for the Webster University volleyball team.
After a victorious 3-0 match against Benedictine University at Springfield (Ill.) to open the regular season, Webster dropped the nightcap to Benedictine University (Ill.) on Friday, Aug. 31 at Grant Gymnasium.
The Gorloks started off the 2012 season making a statement — a clean sweep. Webster won all three games against Benedictine-Springfield, beating the Bulldogs by scores of 25-13, 25-21 and 25-18.
“It was awesome to win the home opener,” Webster coach Merry Graf said. “We really didn’t have any information on them (Benedictine-Springfield). We played them last year and beat them in four. That was our goal — to just come out, beat them in three and take care of business.”
Webster’s fortunes reversed in the second match. The Benedictine Eagles, who went 4-0 on their trip to St. Louis, swept the Gorloks 3-0 (25-19, 25-20 and 25-22).
With an arsenal of new players, it may have been unclear how Webster would look going into its first match of the season.
But sophomore right side hitter Kristen McDowell said even though the players are still getting to know one another, the team has great chemistry.
The Gorloks’ cohesiveness showed early on as they overmatched the Bulldogs.
“We are looking to be more aggressive moving forward,” Benedictine-Springfield setter Lexie Steindl said. “A lot of our girls are younger and haven’t played a lot of college ball. We just have to play for the next point, keep hustling and keep talking.”
The Bulldogs did exactly that in the second set — matching the Gorloks’ intensity point for point. But Webster ultimately came away victorious, winning by a slim margin. McDowell said the wounds were more self-inflicted because of mistakes the Gorloks made.
“The second game we had a rough patch where we gave a lot of balls up just on our own errors,” McDowell said. “So the biggest challenge was just ourselves that second game, but otherwise I think we played pretty well.”
With the first two sets under their belt, the Gorloks finished things off in Game 3.
Drew Aschenbrenner, Benedictine-Springfield’s coach, knows his team has to improve throughout the season to have success.
Despite the progress being made by the Bulldogs in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), Aschenbrenner admits Webster was the better team. If the Gorloks want to repeat as St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champions, they will have to continue to play well.
But the Gorloks have the first match out of the way.
“We want to be beating regional teams outside of our conference,” McDowell said. “Beating Benedictine is a great start. If we get past the conference, we can get a higher rank in the NCAA tournament.”
Webster stayed within striking distance in each set against Chicago-based Benedictine in the nightcap. But the NCAA Division-III Eagles closed out the win and are undefeated on the young season.
Next up for Webster is the Rose-Hulman tournament in Terre Haute, Ind. The Gorloks will play two matches on Saturday, Sept. 8 and two more matches on Sunday, Sept. 9. Webster returns home on Tuesday, Sept. 11 for its first SLIAC match of the season. The Gorloks take on Westminster College at 7 p.m.