Volleyball takes down Greenville, gains ground in standings

Sophomore outside hitter Jordan Vehlewald (No. 19) spikes the ball past Greenville College’s setter Ellen Lueking (No. 24) as she attempts to block Vehlewald during the first set of the Gorloks’ match against the Panthers. The Gorloks won 3-0 which avenged their loss to Greenville from earlier in the season. PHOTO BY BRITTANY RUESS.

The Webster University volleyball team avenged a loss to Greenville College by knocking off the Panthers in straight sets on Tuesday, Oct. 9 at Grant Gymnasium. The last time the Gorloks faced Greenville — Sept. 15 in Elsah, Ill. — the Panthers beat Webster 3-0.

“It felt awesome to beat them on our own home court with the support of our fans,” junior right side hitter Lindsey Taylor said. “We knew by eliminating the errors we had made in September, we could compete with them and win.”

The Gorloks’ blocking proved to be an obstacle for the Panthers. Taylor, along with sophomore middle hitters Sam Kersting and Emily Ratkewicz stayed strong in their blocking.

“Our blocking shut down Greenville, defeating their confidence at crucial times,” Taylor said.

After a close 25-23 first-set win, the Gorloks gave themselves a 2-0 advantage by winning the second set 25-18. The Panthers, trying to mount a comeback, raised their intensity in the third set. But Webster held on for a 25-23 win.

“I think it was a good all-team effort,” Taylor said. “We made some mistakes, but we made up for them, beating them in three games.”

Prior to the 3-0 win over Greenville, Webster defeated St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foes Eureka College and MacMurray College. Webster swept MacMurray 3-0 (25-9, 25-10, 25-5) on Saturday, Oct. 6 in Eureka, Ill. Sophomore outside hitter Jenny Howard led the team with nine kills.

Later that day, Webster downed Eureka 3-0 (25-18, 25-11, 25-20). Sophomore right side hitter Kristen McDowell paced the Gorloks with 10 kills, while Taylor added nine.

Despite the recent wins, the Gorloks also had a pair of tough losses. The 18-6 Millikin University Big Blue gave the Gorloks the blues, as Webster fell 3-1 on Friday, Oct. 5 in Decatur, Ill.

And history repeated itself on Wednesday, Oct. 3, as the 21-1 Washington University Bears defeated the Gorloks 3-0 at Grant Gymnasium. The No. 1-ranked NCAA Division-III Bears hold an all-time record of 21-0 against Webster.

Jenny Howard, sophomore outside hitter, reaches for a ball to spike against the Greenville College Panthers during a match on Tuesday, Oct. 9 in Grant Gymnasium. PHOTO BY BRITTANY RUESS

Despite having never beaten WashU, the Gorloks went into the game with a positive mindset.

“Just compete and have fun while leaving everything we had out there on the court,” Taylor said. “Win or lose, as long as we had put up a good fight, we were going to be satisfied. And that’s what we did.”

WashU jumped on Webster early and won the first set 25-12. Though they lost all three sets, the Gorloks kept WashU on its toes in the second and third sets. WashU won the second set 25-22 and held on for a 29-27 tug-of-war victory in the third set.

“We really just wanted to play clean,” Webster coach Merry Graf said. “We wanted to go out and play to the level of our ability. We had stretches where we did that. Unfortunately, in Game 3, we looked really good, but we just had one little hiccup there with a couple of mistakes in a row that kind of buried us.”

WashU has a history of being a tough team. The Bears won national championships in 2003, 2007, and 2009, and have captured 10 national titles overall.

“Our program has enjoyed great success because our players are effective at executing their on-court responsibilities,” WashU coach Rich Luenemann said. “We don’t have many players who are adept in both the back and front rows, thus we rely on the execution of their particular skill sets to be successful. The team enjoys remarkable chemistry and energy, both essential components for success.”

Though Webster was swept 3-0 by WashU, the Gorloks played hard. And their coaching and competitiveness didn’t go unnoticed.

“Webster is always a well-coached squad,” Luenemann said. “Merry does a great job of preparing her team to face particular opponents, exploiting their weaknesses. They swing well all along the net and actually probably hit harder than we do.”

Even though Webster has never defeated WashU, the Gorloks benefit by playing the Bears.

“I told them if they play like this the rest of the season, we’re going to have some good times,” Graf said.

With the losses to nonconference opponents WashU and Millikin and the wins over SLIAC foes MacMurray, Eureka and Greenville, Webster is 11-8 overall and 9-1 in SLIAC play. The Gorloks are a half-game back of first-place Greenville (10-1) in the conference standings.

Next up for Webster is a road match against Iowa Wesleyan College on Thursday, Oct. 11 in Mount Pleasant. The Gorloks then host SLIAC schools Principia College and Blackburn College on Saturday, Oct. 13. The Principia match begins at 10 a.m., while the Blackburn match starts at 2 p.m.

Josh Sellmeyer contributed to this article.

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