Fulton, Mo., March 31, 2021 – The Westminster College volleyball team came into tonight's SLIAC Conference Tournament Semifinal on a mission to make it to back to back championship games. Mission accomplished. The Blue Jays dispatched the Webster University Gorloks in straight sets 3-0 (25-22, 25-23, 25-19) to advance to Friday nights championship game. The Jays will travel to Greenville University to play the Panthers in a 7:00 p.m. game for the title.
The first set lived up to the billing of two ranked teams. There were 11 ties and six lead changes. Webster ran out to an early lead at 9-4 behind the strong hitting of Lauren Borik. The Blue Jays would dig in and begin their comeback. The Jays would score six straight points to take a 10-9 lead. Four Webster errors aided in the run but then a Natalie Needy kill off of a Gretchen Durbala assist gave the Blue Jays the lead 10-9. The set went back and forth with no one taking more than a one-point lead until an attack error by Eryka Wanyonyi made the score 21-19 in favor of Webster. A service error and three straight attack errors by the Gorloks gave the Blue Jays a 23-21 lead. A Webster kill would get the visitors to within 23-22 before a ball handling error by Webster made it set point 24-22. Wanyonyi made sure to end the set as she pounded a kill cross court to win the set 25-22. The Jays led 1-0.
Set number two was even closer. A kill by Webster's Borik would stake her team to a 3-0 lead. Kills by Allie Kennebeck and Haley Menke cut the lead to 3-2. Later in the set Webster would take its biggest lead of the night at 13-8. Westminster would call a timeout to regroup. The Blue Jays would respond by scoring 6 of the next seven points. The run was keyed by kills by Wanyonyi, a free ball kill by Erica Schrader and a sweet kill by Claire Whitehouse closed the gap to 14-13 before Borik slammed a kill to make the score 15-13 Webster still on top. A kill by Menke would finally tie the set at 18-18. After trading points Natalie Needy would smoke a service ace to give the Blue Jays the lead at 20-19. A kill by Webster's Alexis Wolf would tie the game at 20-20. Westminster would then score thenext two points to go up 22-20 after a Whitehouse kill and a Webster attack error. Webster would come back to tie it up at 22-22. I wicked kill by Wanyonyi put Westminster on top 23-22 and a bad set by Webster would make it 24-22. Wolf put down a kill to get it back to 24-23 but Menke would make sure it would go no further as she attacked off the Webster block to take the second set 25-23 and a commanding 2-0 match lead.
The third set saw the Blue Jays eyeing victory. They ran off the first four points of the set to go up 4-0 as Whitehouse and Menke would lead the charge. Webster would respond and eventually tie the match at 6-6. Westminster would then take control of the set with an incredible 7-0 run while on Menke's serve. Kills by Wanyonyi, Needy and Menke along with two Menke service aces fueled the run as the Blue Jays would take a 13-6 lead. More errors by the Gorloks would lead to the largest lead of the match for the Jays as they would lead 20-9. From there, the Blue Jays would cruise to the third set victory 25-19 and complete its mission to get back to the SLIAC Championship!
Menke led the Blue Jay attack with 14 kills. She was followed by Wanyonyi with eight. Durbala recorded 30 assists on the night. Wanyanyi led the Westminster defense with 15 digs followed by Schrader with 14 and Kennebeck with 10. Needy two solo blocks and one block assist. With the win the Blue Jays record improves to 13-2.
The SLIAC Championship game is next up for the Blue Jays. The game is scheduled for Friday night at Greenville University with a first service scheduled for 7:00 p.m.