Louisville, Ky. – On Friday morning the Westminster College volleyball team left campus at 7:30 a.m. to make the five-and-a-half-hour trip to Louisville, Ky. to play Spalding University. A trip that, in normal years, would be an overnight trip was happening in one day due to the pandemic. The long trip took a toll and the Spalding University Golden Eagles were ready to put up a fight. The Golden Eagles took a 2-1 set lead and looked to end the match in four. Despite it all, the Blue Jays were able to rally late winning the fourth set to force a fifth and deciding set. The Jays made another remarkable comeback in the fifth to win the match 3-2(25-17, 23-25, 20-25, 25-22, 15-11).
The Blue Jays won set one but then dropped sets two and three to the Golden Eagles. Sets two and three saw the Blue Jays get outhit by the Golden Eagles. On top of the better hitting percentage Spalding also made few errors to help them prevail in sets two and three. This just set the stage for the Blue Jay rally.
The fourth set was back and forth through the first half of the set but Westminster could never take the lead. Spalding would make three point runs and Westminster would rally back to get close. After a Spalding run gave them a four point lead the two teams traded a couple points until the score reached 19-15 in favor of Spalding. The Golden Eagles were only six points from the set and match victory. The Blue Jays decided they were not going out without a fight. Natalie Needy and Haley Menke kills off of assists by Gretchen Durbala were sandwiched around a service ace by Allie Kennebeck. This let Spalding know the Blue Jays weren't ready for the match to be over as they closed to within 19-18. After a Westminster attack error made the score 20-18, the Blue Jays were getting ready to make their final push. Needy got it going with a kill and a ball handling error by Spalding would tie the score at 20 all. On the next possession an Eryka Wanyonyi kill gave the Blue Jays their first lead 21-20. Another ball handling error by Spalding and then another kill by Needy gave the Blue Jays some breathing room at 23-20. Eventually back to back kills by Wanyonyi and Needy would end the set 25-22.
This would be the first five set match of the year for the Blue Jays. The fifth set started great for the Jays as a Wanyonyi kill and a Durbala service ace helped stake Westminster to a 3-0 lead going to 15. Spalding would rally and take the lead eventually 8-7. The Golden Eagles would then take what would appear to be control of the match winning the next three points to go up 11-7, four points away from victory. Head Coach Natalia Koryzna would call timeout to rally her team. The Blue Jays responded. They responded big time! A kill by Menke got the Jays started, an attack error by Spalding and a big block by Needy and Wanyonyi cut the Spalding lead to 11-10. The Golden Eagles called timeout to try to disrupt the run but out of the timeout a ball handling error by the Golden Eagles would tie the score at 11 all. A kill by Wanyonyi would give the Blue Jays the lead and send us to another Spalding timeout. It was no use the Blue Jays had the momentum. Two kills by Needy and another by Wanyonyi would end the set and match in the Blue Jays favor 15-11 and 3-2. An incredible 8-0 run by the Jays kept them unbeaten at 4-0.
The Blue Jay attack was led by Menke who recorded a career high 23 kills. Needy finished an outstanding week with 16 kills while hitting .412. Wanyonyi finished the night with 14 kills. Durbala dished out 50 assists to go along with her two service aces that also led the team. Reigning defensive player of the week Erica Schrader came through with another outstanding night recording 25 digs. Joining Schrader with double figure digs was Wanyonyi 15, Menke 13, Durbala 12 and Kennebeck 11.
The Blue Jays will return home to take on Iowa Wesleyan University on Wednesday February 23 with a first serve set for 7:00 p.m.