November 27, 2020

Gorloks beat Principia in preparation for SLIAC tourney

The regular season wrapped up for Webster University volleyball with a seven-match win streak. The team took a break from St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference competition with four of its last six matches against out-of-conference teams.

Coach Merry Graf and the team have titled their current win streak “peak week.” Graf said it is because the Gorloks have played a lot of clean and efficient volleyball.

Freshman middle hitter/outsider hitter Leah Sutton bumps a ball during practice at Grant Gymnasium on Monday, Oct. 29. The Webster University volleyball team earned a share of the regular-season SLIAC title and clinched the No. 2 in the SLIAC tournament with a 3-0 win at Principia on Tuesday, Oct. 30. PHOTO BY VICTORIA CASWELL.

“We talk about this is the time of year we should be peaking, and I really feel like that’s exactly where they’re at,” said Graf. “Things are coming together nicely as far as offense and defense.”

In the last seven matches, Webster has a hitting percentage of .282. The Gorloks currently lead the SLIAC with a .251 hitting percentage. Graf said even against the tougher teams, Webster is still able to pad the stats. Against the University of Dallas, Webster hit .317, with four players hitting over .400.

“Even against those tough teams, we can hit well — and that is awesome,” Graf said.

Going into the Tuesday, Oct. 30 match at Principia College (Ill.), Webster had four players in the top 10 of hitting in the SLIAC. Sophomore middle hitter Samantha Kersting and  sophomore outside hitter Jenny Howard own the top two spots. Sophomore right side hitter Kristen McDowell and junior middle hitter Lindsey Taylor come in as the eighth and 10th best hitters in the conference, respectively.

“There are a lot of great hitters on this team who know where to put the ball,” Kersting said. “That is how we stay on top.”

Kersting continued to lead Webster in kills in the final matches of the season. She recorded double-digit kills in three of the last four matches and is now sixth in the SLIAC in total kills.

Webster had three of its last four go at least four sets — which goes against the Gorloks’ trend of 3-0 matches this season. In the match against Illinois Wesleyan University on Saturday, Oct. 27, Webster won sets 4 and 5 to come back, and went on to tie as co-champions of the Illinois Wesleyan tournament.

“It’s great when we can win fast,” McDowell said. “But those long matches like Illinois (Wesleyan) are always more intense and really fun.”

Webster’s final match of the regular season put the Gorloks back up against SLIAC opponent Principia. To keep a share of the SLIAC regular season title, Webster needed a win.  Greenville College defeated Blackburn College to move its record to 15-1 in conference play.

Webster took out Principia in a similar fashion to the first meeting this season. Both times, it ended with a 3-0 win — this time with the score 25-17, 25-13, 25-21. Even though Webster had the No. 2 seed locked up for the SLIAC tournament, Graf went with her regular starters to keep them fresh for the postseason.

Webster will face the No. 3-seeded Westminster College  Blue Jays at Greenville on Saturday, Nov. 3. The time is still to be determined at press time.

The 2010 tournament was hosted and won by Greenville over Webster in the championship match. That year, Webster also beat Westminster in the first round. The Gorloks plan to stay atop the mountain and win the SLIAC tournament for the second consecutive year. Kersting said the team is ready to change that history.

“It’s peak week,” Kersting said. “We’re excited to play at Greenville, and we’re ready to kick some tushie.”

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