OSKALOOSA — The William Penn women's volleyball team finally removed the proverbial monkey from its back as it snapped a 19-match losing streak with a 3-1 victory over No. 24 Grand View in Heart of America Athletic Conference play Tuesday.
The Statesmen (13-9, 6-6 Heart), who won by scores of 15-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-21, took its first victory in the head-to-head series since Nov. 8, 2008, a span of just less than 13 years.
It definitely did not appear to be WPU's night early on as the hosts fell behind 7-2 in the opening set. The navy and gold were forced to play catchup for the rest of the set, but could not build any momentum on offense, eventually dropping the opening set by double digits. The Vikings came ready to play, outhitting the Statesmen in the first set by a margin of .316-.054.
The Statesmen fortunately were able to slow the Vikings in opening moments of the second set as the teams were tied at 7-7. The visitors created some separation later on, taking a 17-13 lead, but the navy and gold stormed back with a run of their own to take a 19-18 lead and force a Grand View timeout. The Vikings were not finished, recapturing the lead at 21-20, but the Statesmen, aided by two kills and an assisted block by Alyssa Young (Jr., Winter Springs, Fla., Biology), ripped off five in a row to even the match at one set apiece. The Statesmen turned in a nice bounce-back set all-around, outhitting the Vikings .216-.167 and forcing nine Grand View attacking errors.
The visitors looked to quell the host's momentum, but the Statesmen attackers were still riding high. Alyvia Johnson (Fr., Owatonna, Minn., Elementary Education) slammed home three finishers in the first six points to propel WPU to an early 6-3 edge, and after taking the lead again at 10-9, the Statesmen never looked back. They extended the advantage to 17-13, leading to another Viking timeout, and the hits just kept coming. Kills from Johnson, Young, and Corrin Lepper (Sr., Jefferson City, Mo., Exercise Science) brought the Statesmen to set point. Annalise Whitcomb (Sr., Humboldt, Kan., General Accounting) then entered the contest and served up an ace to give the Statesmen a 2-1 advantage in the match. The navy and gold had a remarkably-efficient attacking set, earning 12 kills while only committing one error, good for a .355 hitting mark for the set. On the other side of the ball, the strong net play continued as Grand View committed 10 errors in the set en route to a .178 clip.
The Statesmen took four of the first five points in the fourth set, but the visitors battled back again, going on their own four-point run to take their first advantage at 5-4. The Statesmen were not phased, however, going on a 6-1 run, punctuated by another kill from Young, to force an early Viking timeout. Grand View got the opening point out of the timeout, but it did little to stop the surging Statesmen. Lepper and Alicia Jaquez (Sr., Farmington, N.M., Biology) both produced winners out of the timeout to begin another run of four in a row. The second ace of the night from Cecily Liphardt (Jr., Lincoln, Neb., Psychology and Business Management) helped induce the final timeout of the set for the Vikings with William Penn doubling up its foe 14-7. The second timeout proved to do as little as the first as Lepper and Jaquez repeated themselves with a kill apiece coming out of the break. The visitors tried to dig themselves out of the hole, but Lepper struck down two more points to give the Statesmen a commanding 20-10 lead. The Vikings were not finished, though, trimming the deficit to 21-17, but the navy and gold fended off the late rally and clinched the fourth set and the match with another kill from Jaquez.
Johnson led WPU with 13 kills on a .250 clip, while Lepper paced the team in attacking percentage at .370. Lepper also joined Johnson in double digits with 12 finishers, and Jaquez also contributed nine in the winning effort.
Johnson matched her 13 kills with 13 digs to pace the back row. Caidince Cleveland (Fr., Bettendorf, Iowa, General Accounting) turned in a double-digit effort as well with 10 digs, while Rebekah Eaves (Sr., Farmington, N.M., Elementary, Education) finished close behind with nine.
Whitcomb finished as the team leader in assists with 15, while Destiny Tom (So., Dickinson, Texas, Biology) complemented her with 11. Macy Bailey (Jr., Bondurant, Iowa, Business Management) also mixed in five assists as well.
The Statesmen were a presence at the net all night with the blocking efforts led by Young, who finished with six blocks in the contest. Lepper also had four rejections, while Tori Combs (Jr., Cloverdale, Ind., Psychology) and Symone Jopp (Jr., Mayer, Minn., Business Management) each denied three.
"I am so proud of our entire program tonight," Head Coach Aleesha Cleaver said. "Every single player contributed to this and it was well earned by all. We started to settle in towards the end of the second set and really build some confidence. We had big nights by multiple players and it was awesome to see.”
"I think we showed some mental toughness throughout the match and that was something I was excited to see," she added. "I am proud of the effort tonight and excited to get back to work with this group!”
What's Next: The Statesmen remain in Oskaloosa Friday to host Culver-Stockton in Heart play at 7 p.m.