Western toppled the No. 11 Central Missouri Jennies for the first time since 2005 on Friday, followed by a home win against the Lindenwood University Lions on Saturday.
Western 3, UCM 2
The Griffons traveled to Warrensburg, Missouri to face their second nationally ranked opponent in just a week, but this time, they found success in the close match.
This match was another chance to prove that Western could play with any team in the MIAA head coach Marian Carbin believes.
“Friday we knew was going to be a big one,” Carbin said. “We have thought for the last couple of years that we are talented and could play point for point with Central Missouri, and we’re slowly working over the hump with various teams in the conference, last year with Washburn and this year with Central Missouri.”
In set one, the Griffons found themselves down early by an 11-6 score after the Jennies piled on a four-point run. Western battled back, rattling off an 8-1 run and taking the lead 15-12. Central Missouri would never see the lead again, as Western would take set one with a 25-22 score.
Western kept Central Missouri at bay again in the second set, going on two four-point runs to take an early 10-8 lead. The Griffons kept on the gas to take a comfortable 25-19 victory and taking a 2-0-match lead.
Although Western was able to take an early 2-0 lead, set three proved to be disastrous for the Griffons.
The Jennies began the match with a 4-0 run before they were halted with two scores by the Griffons. Central Missouri kept rolling, allowing Western to get within four with a score of 12-8. The biggest lead of the set came from a 6-0 run by the Jennies to take a 10-point 18-8 lead. The Griffons would not be able to recover, and would fall in the third set by a score of 25-14, cutting their match lead to 2-1.
Match-ups were the key to the set three loss, according to Carbin.
“We just got in a bad match-up situation,” Carbin said. “We rotated thinking that [Central Missouri head coach Flip Piontek] was going to rotate looking for a different match-up, but he didn’t and we did, and so it ended up that our match-ups weren’t very good for the third [set] and the scored definitely reflected that.”
In set four, an early 5-1 run for the Griffons gave them the lead, but the Jennies would fight back, making it a neck and neck match. A late 5-0 run for Central Missouri would give them a 24-21 lead. Although Western scored two quick points to bring the score to 24-23, the Jennies would score their final point winning the set 25-23 and forcing a deciding fifth set.
Even with the match tied, the Griffons were able to stay calm going into the fifth set.
“They clearly had some momentum, but we just talked about it, just get back to the basics,” Carbin said. “We talked about [it] in our huddle, to trust our training, trust our preparation and get back to the basics of our scouting report. Do things well that we did in the first and second [sets] that got us to this point, and the girls got back out there and did it.”
Western never gave up the lead in the deciding set. They piled on two four-point runs and defeated Central Missouri 15-8, beating the team for the first time in 19 matches.
The Griffons’ Jessie Thorup led both teams in kills with 21, while Jordan Chohon racked up 50 assists to lead Western and Kayla Ruff led the team with 29 digs.
Western 3, Lindenwood 1
Western traveled back to the MWSU Fieldhouse to face a bottom of the conference team in Lindenwood.
The opening set was kept tight through its entirety. The lead went back and forth through most of the match, but the Lions came out on top with a 25-23 first set win and claimed a 1-0 match lead.
Errors are what set the Griffons back in the first set, explains Carbin.
“I think in the first set, we had seven hitting errors and three serving errors, so we gave them 10 of their 25 points on our errors,” Carbin said. “That’s far too many, and in conference play, that’s going to hurt you.”
Western found themselves down again in the second set with Lindenwood up 15-10. After a timeout called by the Griffons, they were able to rally back to take the set 25-22 and tie the match 1-1.
The Griffons went on to dominate the Lions in set three 25-13, with the help of two five-point runs and a set ending four-point run, taking the lead 2-1.
They closed out the match in the fourth set with a 25-18 win to defeat Lindenwood 3-1.
Thorup led both teams in kills again with 18, while Chohon again led Western in assists with 42 and tied with Audrey Keim for the team lead in digs with 12.
The powerful weekend performances of both Thorup and Chohon earned them MIAA Althlete of the Week honors. Thorup was named Hitter of the Week and Chohon was named Co-Specialist of the Week.
Western’s defeat of No. 11 Central Missouri and their win against Lindenwood put them in sole possession of second place in the MIAA conference behind Central Oklahoma. The Griffons also more than doubled their votes for national ranking with 14.
The Griffons’ continual success has given Carbin and the team confidence that they are no longer the underdog.
“The tide is certainly shifting and I think that we just have to continue to play night after night like we’re one of the best teams in the league,” Carbin said. “[We] cannot fall back into that mindset of we’re still the underdogs because I don’t think we are anymore.”
For the next three weeks, Western will hit the road with four out of their five matches being MIAA play. They start their road trip in Emporia, Kansas against the Emporia State Hornets on Friday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m.