Photo by Mohamad Suhaimi
BY JOSEPH MILLER
The Drake Volleyball Team continued conference play this weekend, falling to Wichita State 3-0, Missouri State 3-2, but they defeated Illinois State 3-0.
Tasked with a difficult stretch in their season, the Bulldogs held their own against some highly-touted conference opponents.
The weekend began Friday night with a matchup against the Wichita State Shockers, who were ranked first in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll. Drake battled in all three sets, losing them 17-25, 20-25 and 18-25. Although a decisive victory for the Shockers, the Bulldogs excelled in a number of key areas that left the team and coaching staff feeling optimistic.
Set one was a hard-fought effort by the Bulldogs, as they battled to keep themselves in the game but fell apart down the stretch to allow Wichita State to run away with it.
The Shockers began the next set on a 7-2 run and rode that momentum for the rest of the set, ultimately taking it by five points. The Bulldogs came out firing in set three, grabbing a four point advantage to begin the set.
However the Shockers capitalized on a few Drake errors and quickly made up the deficit to take the set with ease.
“Against a team like that which runs a fast offense,” said senior hitter Makena Schoene. “You can’t always defend but I think we worked hard to get to our spots and do our jobs as best we could.”
Specifically, the Drake offense made some significant strides against a quality opponent, accumulating 33 kills on 112 total attempts.
“This was, offensively, probably the best showing we’ve had against Wichita State,” head coach Darrin McBroom said.
The Bulldog attack included strong showings from Schoene, Elle Tubbs, Kameo Pope and Grace Schofield, who each had six kills with freshman Paige Aspinwall adding 14 assists.
Defensively, the duo of senior Michelle Tommi and junior Kyla Inderski combined 25 digs.
Despite the loss Friday night, Drake headed into match two of the weekend with the same intensity as the first to take on the Missouri State Bears – ranked second in the Missouri Valley preseason polls.
“Every game has a life of its own,” Schoene said. “We’re going to go into it trying to do our job and really try to pick apart their offense.”
Drake made a statement early, taking set one with a narrow 25-23 victory, riding the momentum of an early lead and utilizing solid defensive play to stave off the Missouri State offense.
However, Missouri State responded quickly in sets two and three, winning them 18-25 and 17-25. Drake bounced back in set four with a convincing 25-18 win, forcing a pivotal set five.
The scrappy Bulldog squad gave a solid effort in the final frame, trading blows and keeping pace throughout the set, but ultimately Missouri State was able to pull away and win 10-15.
Inderski and Schoene shined on offense, giving 13 and 12 kills respectively. Thommi remained a staple in the Drake defense with another 14 dig effort.
Drake bounced back on Monday night against the Missouri Valley Conference leader Illinois State, defeating them in athree-gamee sweep with scores of 25-22, 25-20 and 25-20.
Set one was a back and forth affair, featuring eight ties and five lead changes, but Drake ultimately created enough separation to get the win thanks to a 5-0 run late in the set.
The Bulldogs fell into an early 6-2 deficit in the second set, but superior net defense from the front line and serving from Chandelle Davidson gave the Bulldogs the momentum they needed to make the comeback.
Coming into set three Drake jumped out to a 13-5 lead and never looked back, suppressing an Illinois State comeback with exceptional defense and taking the final set 25-20.
Pope and Odessa Cody were defensive centerpieces in the Drake squad, grabbing nine of 12 total blocks.
On the offensive front, Inderski had 12 kills, with support from Aspinwall’s 17 assists and Davidson’s 16.
Drake continues conference action Saturday, Oct. 8 at the Knapp Center against the University of Northern Iowa.