Carlinville, Ill. – The Westminster College Blue Jays volleyball team traveled to Carlinville Illinois to play the Blackburn College Beavers on Tuesday night. The 18th ranked Blue Jays would get a heck of a fight from the Beavers. The Beavers would come mere points away from the upset on a couple different occasions but each time the Blue Jays would have an answer. Westminster would survive in five (23-25, 25-16, 22-25, 15-13) to remain unbeaten improving to 7-0.
Set number one went Blackburn's way as they outhit Westminster .211 to .139. With the set tied at 23 the Beavers used back to back kills to close out the set and take a 1-0 lead in the match.
Westminster would respond in set number two. After a closely contested firs half of the set, the Blue Jays would lead 13-10 when they ran off seven straight points to seize control at 20-10. Two kills by Haley Menke and three service aces from Erica Schrader fueled the run for the Blue Jays. The Jays would use solid hitting (.250) to eventually take set number two 25-16 to tie the match at 1-1.
Set number three would be a rough one for the Blue Jays as they would commit ten errors in the set and give Blackburn an opportunity to take the set by hitting .021. Blackburn would take advantage and jump out to a 15-7 lead that it would not lose eventually winning 25-22. Just like that Blackburn was up two sets to one on their home floor.
Set number four saw the two teams trade points throughout the early going. Blackburn would carve out an 18-16 lead as it looked to have a little momentum. Westminster went to work, Menke started the rally with a kill off of a Gretchen Durbala assist. The Blue Jays tied it up at 18 on a kill by Eryka Wanyonyi. Menke would then record back to back service aces to take a lead at 20-18. Natalie Needy and Wanyonyi would add kills and the Blue Jays found themselves up 22-18 needing to win to force a fifth set. Blackburn would rally off three straight points to get to within 22-21. Needy would come through with the kill for a 23-21 lead after a Beaver point the Blue Jays would use a service error by Blackburn and a crushing kill by Menke to win 25-22 and force the deciding fifth set.
The fifth set saw a milestone achieved by the Blue Jays setter Durballa. Durbala, a transfer from MacMurray College, recorded her 1,000th career NCAA Division III assist when she assisted on a Menke kill that cut the Beavers lead to 5-4. The Blackburn lead would grow to 10-7. After a timeout and a Blackburn attack error, Durbala would record a service ace that would cut the Blackburn lead to 10-9. The Beavers would appear to take control of the set when they went up 12-9. That's when Wanyonyi would refuse to let the Blue Jays go down. The sophomore got a kill, Blackburn committed an attack error and then Wanyoni hit a service ace and tied the game at 12 all. Blackburn would record a kill and retake the lead at 13-12. Senior Allie Kennebeck came through with a kill down the line to even it up and forcing a Blackburn timeout. Blackburn could not halt the Blue Jays momentum and after a ball handling error gave the Jays match point Senior Natalie Needy would complete the comeback with a kill to win the set 15-13 and the match 3-2.
Head Coach Natalia Koryzna had this to say about tonights match, "That was a tough win we gritted out tonight. We didn't play our best tonight but we found a way to win. You have to give Blackburn a lot of credit, they had a good gameplan and played very well. I'm pleased with my girls, they hung in there and really showed me a lot. It's hard to win on the road so we are happy to come out of here with a W!"
Menke led the Blue Jay attack with 22 kills. Needy would add 11 kills on a .417 hitting percentage. Wanyony would add 10 kills and record a double-double with a team leading 33 digs. Durbala recorded 46 assists to lead the team. Schrader would add 18 digs to the Blue Jay defense and Kennebeck contributed 14 digs. Needy would lead the team with four service aces and Schrader would add 3.
The Blue Jays will return to action Friday night at home in Historic Gym. The first serve is set for 7:00 p.m.