Volleyball starts off strong

Truman State volleyball is off to an undefeated start in conference and regional matches after defeating three GLVC teams within the last week.

Truman (5-2, 2-0 GLVC) was 8-2 last year. Coming off of a 2-2 split at the BritKare Lady Buff Classic against quality non-conference opponents, the Bulldogs were put to the test and knew what they needed to improve on before the games that counted began.

“We learned that we need to finish games sooner,” senior Meghan Zimmerman said. “Being home will be a big confidence boost for us.”

The team opened their series of home matches by taking down Illinois-Springfield 3-1 last Wednesday. Although Illinois-Springfield is a member of the GLVC, the match was counted as a non-conference contest, but will count as a regional win for the ‘Dogs and be noted to their conference record when the two square off Sept. 21. Zimmerman had 45 assists, 11 digs and 6 kills that evening.

The Bulldogs then hosted the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in front of a Family Day crowd as their first conference match of the year, a team that has grown in size since the two teams met last year.

“You have to be ready to play every point because they are very good at what they do,” head coach Ben Briney said before the match.

It took less than 80 minutes for the Bulldogs to take down the Rangers 3-0 after a two hour game delay because of University of Wisconsin-Parkside scheduling issues. Eight Bulldogs contributed to the 11 blocks totaled of the day, one short of a program record.

“It’s always great to be at home,” Briney said. “We’re very blessed and fortunate to have the great fan support we have, especially with it being on family weekend.”

The highlight of the weekend was the match against perennial power Lewis University Flyers Sunday. Truman opened their inaugural season in the GLVC last year against the Flyers and lost their first conference game in Romeoville, Illinois. They were not to be denied this time as the ‘Dogs won 3-2 to conclude the weekend.

Similar to Truman, Lewis returned a majority of their players from last year, including 2013 GLVC Player of the Year and All-American Kim Vertin. Senior Allie Brak and Vertin were the top two kill leaders of the conference last year and were two impact players at Sunday’s match. Brak led the offensive stats for the Bulldogs with 17 kills and added 13 digs to help the Bulldogs win.

It came down to a nail-biting finish after Truman took the first two sets. The Flyers quickly won the next two sets to take the match to five. With the Flyers leading 13-10, Truman went on a 5-0 rally after two kills and three attack errors by Lewis to finish the game.

Four Bulldogs finished with more than ten kills against Lewis, Brak (17), sophomore Kayla Bastian (14) and junior Abby Heise and  junior Ali Patterson (13). Junior Emilee Walters finished with eight kills and hit .368 that afternoon.

“We have a lot of fire when it comes to playing [Lewis],” Walters said. “That early loss last season still carries with us today and I think it’s going to be a rivalry that we’ll get to pass on.”

Briney said he was happy with the way his team continued to play at a high level during all three games, which continues to be a point of emphasis for Briney throughout the season.

“I was really pleased with the way that we played consistent, especially on Saturday,” Briney said. “I’m so proud of my team for staying in the fifth set [against Lewis] and that’s why we were fortunate enough to come out with the win.”

Truman will take on GLVC member McKendree University 11 a.m. and nationally ranked West Texas A&M 3 p.m. Saturday in Lebanon, Illinois.

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