Louisville, KY, 10/1/21 – The Blue Jays volleyball team fresh off of last nights sweep of Blackburn College didn't get much time to enjoy their performance as they left early Friday morning for the long trip to Louisville, KY to take on the Spalding University Golden Eagles. The Blue Jays were going for their third straight win. The Blue Jays shook off the long trip just in time to post a thrilling 3-2(22-25, 25-13, 25-17, 17-25, 17-15) win over the Golden Eagles. The win improves the Blue Jays to 5-9 overall and 2-1 in the SLIAC. Spalding falls to 3-9 overall and 3-2 in the SLIAC.
The Blue Jays were a little road weary in the first set. After jumping out to a 7-4 lead the Golden Eagles would go on a 15-7 run that gave them a five-point lead at 19-14. The Blue Jays would make a run to try to get back in it when Eryka Wanyonyi (Columbia, MO / Hickman) recorded three straight kills that allowed Westminster to tie the score 20-20. After going down 20-21 Wnyonyi would tie it again 21-21 with another kill off of a Gretchen Durbala (Burlington, IA / Burlington) assist. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays the Golden Eagles would score four of the last five points to win the first set 25-22 and take a 1-0 lead in the race to three set wins.
Set two saw the Blue Jays wake up in a big way from the long ride. The Blue Jays were leading 8-6 when they went on a monster run of 13-2 to take a commanding 21-8 lead. Wanyonyi and Haley Menke (O'Fallon, MO / Fort Zumwalt West) would begin to assert their dominance in the match during the run. The Blue Jays would cruise to the set two victory after a Heather Ripperger (Hillsboro, MO / Hillsboro) service ace and a Spalding attack error closed out the set 25-13 tying the match at 1-1.
In the third set the Blue Jays would record 20 kills with only three errors and hit a game high .327. Wanyonyi, Menke, Durbala all recorded kills in set three. The Blue Jay middles were also getting in on the fun with Claire Whitehouse (St. Louis, MO / Parkway Central) recording three kills and Payton Bledsoe (Mexico, MO / Mexico) doing the same. Two Spalding errors, two Kate Rable (Saint Peters, Mo. / Fort Zumwalt South) service aces and a Sophie Reimer (St. Charles, MIO / Lutheran) service ace accounted for the last points in a 25-17 third set win for the Blue Jays to take a 2-1 match lead.
The Blue Jays were looking to close out the Golden Eagles in set number four. Spalding had other plans. They would use a 6-1 run to take a commanding lead of 19-10 and would cruise to a 25-17 set four victory tying the match at 2-2 and forcing the fifth and deciding set.
A Wanyonyi kill would stake the Blue Jays to a 6-3 lead in the set to 15. Spalding would use two kills and a Blue Jay attack error to tie the set at 6-6. The set would then go back and forth with Spalding scoring to knot the game at 10-10. Menke would give the Jays the lead 11-10 on a kill. Spalding would respond with three straight kills to take a 13-11 lead. Things did not look good for the Jays. Menke would deliver a kill to break the Spalding run and make it 13-12 in favor of the hosts. An Attack error by the Jays moved Spalding to a match point at 14-12. A Spalding attack error made it 14-13. Timeout Spalding. A terrific Kate Rable serve lead to the Golden Eagles playing the ball back to the Jays and Wanyonyi would make them pay with a kill that tied it qt 14-14. The two teams traded points to 15-15. A Spalding attack error as a result of a big block assist by Whitehouse and Emma Geier (Versailles, MO / Morgan County R-2) to give the Jays the lead 16-15 and give them their first match point. They didn't waste it. Wanyonyi would end it with a thunderous kill that found the floor for the 17-15 set win and a 3-2 match win.
Head coach Dalton Tucker was pleased with his teams fight, "Tonight was a huge team effort! I am very proud of how the team played and responded to adversity all night long." He added, "We are hoping to carry the momentum from tonight into tomorrows matches."
The one two combination of Menke and Wanyonyi was too much for the Golden Eagles. Wanyonyi led the Jays with 24 kills followed by Menke's 20 kills. Durbala contributed 50 assists on the night and now sits just 3 assists shy of her 1,000th assist with the Blue Jays in just thirty matches and counting. Five players recorded double figures in digs with senior Erica Schrader (Imperial, MO / St. Pius X) coming up with a season high 29 of them. Wanyonyi had 23 for her second game of the season with 20+ kills and 20+ digs. Ripperger had 17, Reimer 14 and Durbala 11 to round out the Blue Jay defense. Rable and Schrader each had three service aces to lead the Jays.
The Blue Jays will see another quick turnaround as they will be back in action with two matches on Saturday October 2nd in St. Louis at the Fontbonne tri-match. A 1:00 p.m. first serve as the Jays will take on the Principia College Panthers. Later that day at 3:00 p.m. the Blue Jays will take on Fontbonne University.