Lonely at the Top
Written by Brian Ehresman Media by Matt Miller
Heading into Saturday’s SLIAC Volleyball matches, two teams were tied atop the conference standings. Greenville College and the Westminster Lady Blue Jays both came into the day with unblemished records in the SLIAC. The two squads were scheduled to face off in the afternoon, so something had to give. Before that heavyweight battle could occur though, both schools had some other strong contenders to knockout earlier in the day.
Hosting the matches for the weekend, Westminster opened the day with an impressive 3-0 sweep of Webster, a team predicted 2nd in the preseason SLIAC poll. Greenville started with a key matchup against Spalding. The Golden Eagles were the only team in the conference to defeat the Lady Panthers in the regular season a year ago. GC started out strong winning the first set 25-16, but Spalding responded with a 25-23 win in set 2. With the match squared at 1-1, the Panthers came through in the clutch with two tough wins in sets 3 and 4, 25-20 and 25-23. Greenville again got great play from setter Ellen Lueking as she directed the offense with 59 assists. Freshman Allyson Mitchell was spectacular at the net with 18 kills and hitting over .500. Senior Nicole Schaeffer played a great all-around game, hammering 16 kills to go along with 18 digs and two blocks. Junior libero Jaime Schollenbruch was her normal, dominant self from the back row, tallying 22 digs. Senior Joelle Scholten also played an outstanding defensive game, matching Schollenbruch with 22 digs. The win helped to setup the undefeated showdown with Westminster.
Greenville threw the first punch against the Blue Jays, dominating the first set on their way to a 25-11 win. Set 2 was a bit tighter, but the Panthers came out on top 25-22. Trying to avoid a sweep, Westminster scored the last two points of the 3rd set to squeeze out a 27-25 victory to stay alive. Greenville, however, responded in the 4th set by getting back to their winning ways and taking the 4th set 27-25. Schaeffer came up big for the Panthers, leading the offense with 18 kills. She also notched her 1,000th career kill in the match. Lueking set up 45 kills, Schollenbruch dug up 15 spikes, and Savannah Sells chipped in with 10 kills. Junior middle hitter Marissa Erwin may have been the x-factor for GC, as she had nine kills and helped shut down the Westminster offense with three solo blocks and getting a helping hand on five other blocks. As a team, Greenville had 12 blocks, which helped negate reigning SLIAC offensive player of the week Lexi Collier, and last year’s Newcomer of the year Riley Lawrence. Collier managed 12 kills while Lawrence was held to seven. The win moves Greenville’s record to 12-5 overall and 7-0 in the SLIAC. “It’s a pretty awesome feeling being undefeated. We have played good competition in conference so far,” stated Schaeffer. As for the 1000th kill, Schaeffer was eager to pass credit on to her teammates. “My setters have given me awesome sets. Ellen has been my setter since 5th grade so it’s great that she has helped me get to this point.” The Panthers are now all alone on top of the conference.
Earlier in the week, GC cruised by MacMurray for the second time this season in three straight sets. Sierah Ruffner was unstoppable for the Panthers, crushing 10 kills in only 12 attempts, and Schollenbruch added 20 digs. The JV squad also pushed past MacMurray in four sets.
The Panthers will now face Principia, a team they narrowly defeated earlier in the season, on Tuesday at home, with the JV team hosting Lewis and Clark beforehand. A trip to Webster awaits next weekend to face Iowa Wesleyan and Fontbonne, as Greenville looks to continue its SLIAC winning streak.