Blue Jays Survive Furious Fontbonne Rally To Prevail In Five Sets

Photo by Caleb Maassen
Photo by Caleb Maassen

Fulton, MO, 10/11/21 – The Westminster College volleyball team was aiming for their eighth strait win on Monday night when they welcomed the Fontbonne University Griffins to Historic Gym.  After two sets everything seemed to be going to plan for the Blue Jays who led two sets to none.  Fontbonne would then rally to win sets three and four to force a deciding fifth set.  The Blue Jays would respond in the fifth set to win the set and the match 3-2 (25-23, 25-16, 22-25, 17-25, 15-9).  The win improves the Blue Jays to 10-9 overall and 6-1 in the SLIAC.  The loss drops the Griffins to 4-11 overall and 3-4 in the SLIAC.

The Blue Jays would get off to a slow start in the first set.  The Griffins led the majority of the way.  Their lead grew to 18-14 and then the Blue Jays would make their move. A 6-1 run gave the Blue Jays their first lead since 3-2 at 20-19.  A Payton Bledsoe (Mexico, MO / Mexico) kill and two Eryka Wanyonyi (Columbia, MO / Hickman) kills powered the run.  The Griffins would hang in there and re-take a 23-22 lead.  A service error on the Griffins, another Wanyonyi kill and a kill by Claire Whitehouse (St. Louis, MO / Parkway Central) would give the Jays a 25-23 set one victory and a 1-0 lead in the match.

Set two saw the Blue Jays continue the momentum from the end of the first set as they would build an 18-9 lead and cruise to a 25-16 set two win.  The Blue Jays hit .250 in set two and took advantage of 11 attack errors by the Griffins.  Whitehouse would lead the Jays in the second set with four kills and a solo block.  The Blue Jays found themselves with a formidable 2-0 match lead.  It looked like the blue Jays would try to end this match in three.  Fontbonne had other plans.

The Griffins would respond by hitting a match high .480 in the third set.  Their hot hitting and the Blue Jays committing six attack errors and hitting .000 combined for a recipe that saw the Griffins narrowly take game three 25-22 to cut the Jays lead to 2-1. 

Set four was all Griffins as they ran out to a 18-13 and cruised to a 25-17 win to forcer a fifth and deciding set as the match was suddenly tied 2-2. 

The fifth set saw the Griffins take a 3-1 lead in the race to 15.  A Whitehouse solo block got things going for the Blue Jays.  A block assist by Bledsoe and Gretchen Durbala (Burlington, IA / Burlington) ignited the Jays and they would build an 8-5 lead on a Heather Ripperger (Hillsboro, MO / Hillsboro) service ace that forced a Fontbonne timeout. Out of the timeout saw libero Erica Schrader (Imperial, MO / St. Pius X) register the dig of the match and shortly after Bledsoe would kill an errant pass by the Griffins that came to the net to take control 9-5. After a Griffin kill Bledsoe was back at it peppering a kill off an Fontbonne defender to make it 10-6. A Whitehouse kill off another bad pass by the Griffins stretched the lead to 11-6. The teams traded errors to make it 12-7.  A Griffin kill narrowed the lead to 12-8. Ripperger recorded a great up off a Griffin serve that tipped the tape and went over that led to a Wanyonyi kill and a 13-8 lead. The teams traded service errors and that brought the Blue Jays to match point at 14-9.  Haley Menke (O'Fallon, MO / Fort Zumwalt West) would send the Blue Jay faithful home happy hitting a kill off the Griffin block and down for the set winner 15-9 and the match 3-2.

Wanyonyi would lead the attack for the Blue Jays with 15 kills followed by a career high 11 kills by Whitehouse who also led the Jays in hitting percentage hitting .348 for the night on 23 attacks.  Menke tallied eight kills.  Durbala once again led the team with 39 assists.  Schrader led the defense with 12 digs followed by Wanyonyi and Durbala with ten digs each.  Sophie Reimer (St. Charles, MIO / Lutheran) led the Blue Jays servers with three service aces.  Whitehouse recorded two solo blocks and two block assists to lead the Blue Jays at the net.

The Blue Jays will be back at home on Wednesday October 13th when they welcome cross-town neighbor NAIA William Woods University to Historic Gym.  The game is set for a first serve at 7:00 p.m.

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