STORY BY ADAM ROGAN
A road win against Bradley on Oct. 13 snapped a two match losing streak for the Bulldogs, but the good news ends there. Three road losses followed as Drake traveled to the University of Northern Iowa, Southern Illinois and Evansville.
Although the win is still something to celebrate, Bradley is a winless 0-10 against conference opponents in 2015. Bradley has only won three sets in the Missouri Valley Conference this season, one of which came against Drake.
The Bulldogs faced off with UNI in Cedar Falls on Oct. 17 and, unlike the Bradley match, nothing seemed to go right.
From the start, Drake struggled to put points on the board. Only five kills were recorded for the Bulldogs in the first set as compared to UNI’s 17. Unsurprisingly, the Bulldogs lost set one, 13-25.
Statistically, the second set didn’t look much better. The Bulldogs had a hit percentage of .054, but two big blocks from redshirt junior Katie Allen boosted the team’s morale and kept them in the game.
Down 20-13, Drake took the next five points thanks to a trio of UNI attacking errors and strong serving, including one ace, from junior Michelle Thommi. After trading points over the next four volleys, UNI went on a 3-0 run to close out the second set, 25-20.
Drake was able to get out to a quick 5-2 lead in set three behind their best hitting of the match, recording a hit percentage of .235 through the set. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, UNI hit their best in set three as well.
With the match tied at 14, UNI went on an 8-1 run to put some distance between themselves and the Bulldogs. The set ended 25-18 and UNI completed the sweep.
The Bulldogs began the back half of the conference season when they met with SIU on Oct. 23 for the second time this year. This repetition can help the Bulldogs better strategize against their opponents, having seen them first-hand a little over a month ago. But this same tactic can be used against them as well.
SIU is currently the third-best team in the MVC and proved that ranking by controlling Drake on the court.
Drake’s hit percentage was below .100 in the match while SIU finished at .220. This discrepancy can be attributed to the struggles of Drake’s three top hitters – Grace Schofield, Kyla Inderski and Makena Schoene – who combined for a hit percentage of .024 against SIU.
The Bulldogs faced superb blocking at the net as SIU picked up 10 blocks in just three games while Drake only had five. Allen had a hand in four of them, two of which were solo.
Drake was swept for the second straight match: 15-25, 18-25, 20-25.
The next day the Bulldogs finished their road trip at Evansville. The last time these two teams met was on Sept. 25, the first match of the MVC season, when Drake swept the Purple Aces easily at the Knapp Center. This week’s match was a different story.
Drake struggled putting points away early and fell behind 9-2. But slowly, they began getting back into the game.
An 8-3 Drake run featured kills and blocks from five different Bulldogs to bring the set to within two.
The Bulldogs continued to battle and took a late 19-18 lead. However, the Purple Aces hitting down the stretch guided them to a 25-22 set win.
Despite getting out ahead 10-6 in set two, the Bulldogs allowed a 9-1 run that gave Evansville a lead that would not be relinquished. The Purple Aces won the game 25-16 and took a 2-0 match lead.
Despite featuring just two lead changes, the third set was close throughout. The Bulldogs held a healthy 17-12 lead, but the Purple Aces were able to slowly chip away and tied the match 22.
Drake then took a timeout. Head coach Darrin McBroom knew that a loss in the set would end the match and whatever he said in the huddle clearly worked as the Bulldogs came out firing. Two kills and a block gave the Bulldogs the points they needed to win the set, 25-23.
Still, any momentum they may have built was repressed in game four by the Purple Aces’ hitters. Drake fell behind 12-4 and never closed the gap to within six thereafter. Evansville ended the match with a 25-18 set win.
The Bulldogs will look to turn their luck around against Indiana State and Illinois State this weekend at the Knapp Center. Both matches are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday night, respectively.