Fulton, Mo. - The Westminster College Blue Jays women's volleyball team is off to a flying start this season. The Blue Jays continued that great start by taking down last season's SLIAC regular season champions and previously unbeaten Greenville University in straight sets (25-18, 25-22, 27-25). The win pushes the Blue Jay record to 3-0 overall and 3-0 in the SLIAC. Greenville falls to 3-1 overall and 3-1 in the SLIAC.
Set number one set the tone for the Blue Jays. With Greenville leading 3-2 early on, the Blue Jays would go on a run. Five straight points by the Jays opened up a 7-3 lead. Allie Kennebeck and Natalie Needy keyed the run. Kennebeck recorded two of her four service aces and Needy would put away two kills during the run. Needy and the Blue Jays were far from done. Greenville would make a run to close the gap to 17-16 but back to back kills by the Jays Eryka Wanyonyi gave Westminster some breathing room at 19-16. A few points later, with the Blue Jays leading 22-18, three straight kills by Payton Bledsoe, Needy and Haley Menke would bring the first set to an end 25-18.
The second set saw the Panthers hold a small lead at 8-6 early on before the Blue Jays would go to work. Westminster took advantage of four straight Greenville attack errors. Needy and Menke crushed two kills off of Gretchen Durbala assists and Kennebeck topped the rally off with her third service ace. That 7-0 run gave the Blue Jays a 13-8 lead they would not relinquish. The steady attacks of Needy, Menke and Wanyonyi were more than the Panthers could handle as the Blue Jays would go on to win the second set 25-22.
The stage was set for the Blue Jays to try to close out the match in straight sets. The Panthers would not go down without a fight. The two teams traded points early in the set. A Wanyonyi kill cut the Panthers lead to 10-9. The Panthers would score three straight points to take a 13-9 lead on the Blue Jays. A couple points later Greenville would again go on a run to open up their biggest lead of the night at 17-11. Head Coach Natalia Koryzna called a timeout to try to get her troops refocused on digging out of the hole they were in. Coming out of the timeout Needy would record another kill, but this time instead of one of the crushing swings she had been putting on the ball, she tipped the ball perfectly over the Greenville blockers. A point later the Jays would reel off 5 straight points to get back in the set keyed by two more kills from Needy and a service ace by Menke. The Greenville lead had shrunk to 18-17. The Panthers were able to keep the lead and eventually led 24-22 and were looking to close out the set and get back in the match. Menke and Needy had other plans as their back to back kills tied the set at 24-24. Kennebeck would then give the Blue Jays the lead with her fourth service ace at 25-24. Greenville would tie it up and then Menke and Wanyonyi would end the match with back to back kills to close out the set 27-25 and the match 3-0.
Coach Koryzna was happy with her teams play, "I was pleased with our performance tonight. The girls kept their focus and executed the game plan very well." She then had some praise for one of her seniors, "Natalie Needy played a remarkable game offensively and was a great leader tonight. I am excited to see us going in the right direction."
Needy led the Blue Jay attack tonight tallying 12 kills with no errors and an outstanding hitting percentage of .632 while Wanyonyi and Menke each had 13 kills. Gretchen Durbala led the team once again with 38 assists. Kennebeck's game high four service aces led the Blue Jays. The Westminster defense was solid again tonight as reigning SLIAC Defensive Player of the Week Erica Schrader and Kennebeck each recorded 12 digs. The Blue Jays outhit the Panthers .219 to .097 overall in route to the victory.
The Blue Jays will be back in action on the road as they travel to Kentucky to take on Spalding University on Friday February 19. The first serve is set for 5:00 p.m. CST.