Photo: File photo
Drake’s weekend of Missouri Valley Conference play in Wichita, Kan., and Springfield, Mo., ended in two losses, leaving the Bulldogs ready for a week of practice and preparation leading up to an exciting face-off against Northern Iowa at the Knapp Center on Friday.
Drake suffered its second consecutive loss Friday night, falling to Wichita State 3-0. The Bulldog offense had trouble countering a tireless Shocker defense.
Limited to just 31 kills in the contest, the Bulldogs nearly hung on in the first set, a slow start thwarting their hopes for an early victory. Junior Whitney Westrum earned almost a third of the Bulldogs’ total kills, recording a team-high of 10 on the night. The first set concluded with a 25-19 score in the Shockers’ favor, giving the Bulldogs a moment to regroup and refocus entering the second set.
That moment simply wasn’t long enough, as Drake fell 25-13 in the second set.
The Shockers’ defense yet again hindered Drake’s offensive efforts, and the Bulldogs recorded an identical number of digs in the match with 31. Junior libero Sarah Madden had a team-high 12 digs. Friday’s game marked a milestone for Madden, who surpassed 200 digs in the season. She now has 217 on the year after Saturday’s game.
The Shockers responded consistently to Drake’s offensive pushes, tallying 15 blocks in the match compared to the Bulldogs’ six. Aces were also critical in the straight-set victory, as five serves hit the floor in Drake territory compared to a single ace by the Bulldogs.
Drake fell by double digits again in the final set, and the Shockers completed the sweep with a 25-15 victory.
“They were consistent, and we lost our consistency during the match,” Drake head coach Tony Sunga said. “In volleyball, the more consistent team usually wins the match. They’re a tough team.”
Drake faced an equally troublesome opponent in Saturday’s match at Missouri State, and the match took a similar course, ending in a 3-0 Bulldog defeat. Drake is now 6-14 overall and 2-5 in the MVC.
Plagued by injury, the Bulldogs committed both mental and technical errors, resulting in another inconsistent performance.
Falling 25-14 in the initial set, the Bulldogs committed error after error, totaling 20 in the match in contrast to the Bears’ 13. The second set proved more competitive, but the final score read 25-19 in Missouri State’s favor.
Senior Caitlin Johnson proved dominant in Drake’s scoring efforts. She was the lone Bulldog player to reach double digits in assists with 23. The Bulldogs hit just 27 kills in the match, with junior Bentley Mancini leading the way with seven.
Perhaps the most pivotal point in Saturday’s loss was the stark number of digs, as the Bulldogs tallied just 42 in the match compared to the Bears’ 58. Johnson added a team-high nine digs, Madden recorded eight and senior Erika Price collected seven.
The most lopsided set in the match was the last, and the fatigued Bulldogs faced an early deficit and never regained momentum, losing 25-13 to cap the Bears’ dominant 3-0 win.
“We had an injury, and we had some mental lapses tonight,” Sunga said.
Being healthy is an aspect of the game that will prove critical this Friday, when the Bulldogs take on the nationally ranked UNI Panthers. The match is set to begin at 7 p.m.