OSKALOOSA — William Penn men's volleyball was desperate for a win entering their Saturday night's match against St. Ambrose, as they had lost four in a row. The Fighting Bees certainly looked in control for most the night but the Statesmen flipped the switch in the third set. Sweeping the remaining three frames, the team took a five-set victory in stunning fashion. WPU improves to 5-7 overall on the year.
The navy and gold jumped on top in the first set with a kill from Ike Papes (So., Elwood, Ill, Business Management) and they continued to lead early. Anthony Torres (Fr., Aurora, Ill., Computer Science) and Eli Herro (So., Dousman, Wis., Business Management) each got kills as the team went ahead 5-2. However, SAU went on a 7-4 run to tie things at 9-9.
Connor Muff (Jr., Kenosha, Wis., Business Management) recorded an ace to put the team ahead, as the squad again rolled out a three-point lead. But once more, St. Ambrose reeled the score in and took a 15-14 lead. They blazed away from there, as the outscored WPU 10-4 to close out the set 25-18. WPU had six kills and five errors in 25 total attempts in the first.
Set two started with a 3-0 run for the Fighting Bees before Papes put the Statesmen on the board. A couple errors by St. Ambrose brought the navy and gold within one but they could not get much closer early one.
The team battled back to tie the game at 11-11 on a kill by Muff. But SAU then fired away, taking a 17-11 lead. WPU got to 20 points but could not muster much else, as they fell 25-20. The home side hit .190 in the frame, with nine kills and five errors in 21 attempts.
Needing to change things up, starting libero CJ Rettig (So., Sierra Madre, Calif., Physical Education) went back to an offensive roll and Francisco Cruz (Fr., Bayamon, Puerto Rico) took over. With the message sent by Coach Bentley, the team responded in grand fashion.
The third set began with the teams exchanging points until St. Ambrose pulled out a 9-7 lead. Torres responded to bring it back to one and then nailed another kill to tie the game at 10-10. Once more, the teams swapped scores but Papes put WPU ahead 16-15 to capture the momentum. SAU tied it briefly but the Statesmen then put up six unanswered points to take a 22-16 lead. Kills from Papes and Herro catapulted the team to a 25-17 victory in the third set. The team hit .357 in the frame, with 13 kills and three errors in 28 total attempts.
The fourth set was even better for the navy and gold. With the score tied 3-3, WPU stormed away to a 7-3 edge. Torres then notched back-to-back aces to put the squad up 11-4. The Fighting Bees started scoring from there but the Statesmen refused to let them get closer than six. The Statesmen hit .450 in the fourth en route to their 25-15 win. The lineup had 12 kills and three errors in 20 attempts.
In the race to 15, William Penn struck first but St. Ambrose answered. Tied at 2-2, Torres made two-straight kills to give the home side a 4-2 lead and the team would keep a two-point edge as the set moved along. Kills by Torres and Herro made the advantage 10-7 and forced St. Ambrose into a timeout. The Statesmen took a point after the break but the Fighting Bees came back to within one, as they slashed the lead to 11-10.
But Torres got the next kill to put WPU ahead 12-10. Up 13-11, Papes pounded a ball down to make it 14-12, and an error by SAU sealed the deal. Winning 15-13, the Statesmen had 10 kills and six errors in 21 attempts in the fifth and final set.
For the match, the team put up 50 kills, hit .243, collected 39 digs, recorded 10 aces, and had 12.5 blocks.
Papes and Torres each had 16 kills to lead the way, with Herro coming on strong late to finish with eight kills. Muff had 40 assists on the night while Rettig had 12 digs to pace the lineup. Muff also had nine digs on the night while Papes had seven. Cruz had three digs and four assists in his strong relief appearance.
"Outside of winning our first match in program history last year, tonight may be one of the proudest moments of my coaching career," said Head Coach Luke Bentley. "There aren't enough words to describe how I feel about our guys tonight."
Next Up: William Penn will host another top program in Missouri Valley College. The Vikings will play the Statesmen on Feb. 23 at 7 p.m.