Left: Tritons receiving Lewis near the end of the second set Septmber 26 (Courtesy of Eric Wynen/The Current)
By Mary Chickos, Staff Writer & Alex Neupert, Sports Editor
At 7 p.m. in the Mark Twain Athletic and Fitness Center on September 25, the University of Missouri—St. Louis Tritons hosted the Wisconsin-Parkside Rangers in women’s volleyball. The Rangers were led by head coach Christine Laskero, and the UMSL Tritons were led by head coach Ryan Young in the first matchup between the two Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) teams, as well as the home opener for UMSL.
After a shaky 0-4 start to the season, UMSL has won four of their last six and hoped to continue their turnaround behind the strength of not only the experience of their five seniors, but some of their up-and-coming freshmen as well. Young cited those early matches as helping the team prepare, saying, “We played four really good teams in Florida, and I think it’s helped us prepare for a tough conference schedule. Teams we played down there were very good and we kind of learned where we were at and what we need to work on. And we’ve improved since then so it’s a good sign.”
The Tritons were quick to show these improvements. During the first set, UMSL forced long rallies with the Rangers, keeping the ball inbounds and letting their opponents make the mistakes. To that effect, Wisconsin-Parkside helped the home team often with 18 errors to the Tritons’ eight. The Tritons won their first set easily with a score of 25-18.
In the second set the Tritons had a major mishap when several players ran into the announcement booth, knocking out the lights and electronic scoring system. However, the game kept going with only a short time out. The Tritons kept the ball going, continuing to force the issue with accurate shots to the tune of a .367 hitting percentage, compared to the abysmal .178 put up by the opposition.
UMSL had their work cut out for them going into the third set, where the Rangers could not seem to amount any response to the onslaught of attack from the Tritons’ offensive core. Four of UMSL’s top five scorers had six or more kills, including a match high of 11 kills supplied by Gina Pezze, sophomore, nursing. Hannah Miller, senior, graphic design, added eight kills along with two blocks. The Tritons had 11 blocks on the night to the Rangers one, behind the strong defense of Jessica Ploss, senior, German, who supplied four blocks. Leading defensive specialist Alivia Brinker, freshman, chemistry, also helped out on defense, providing 15 digs alongside Lindsay Meyer, senior, business logistics, who added nine digs and 21 assists to her total of 2,694, which is third all-time for the Tritons.
An 8-0 run during the final set was enough to win the match against the Rangers in straight sets: 25-18, 25-20, 25-14. On the sweep, coach Young said, “I thought we played really solid in all aspects. Obviously, being our home opener we were pretty pumped up and a little amped up. So I think that helped a lot being on our home floor, but we just played solid and it was good to see three really good complete sets.”
On Saturday, the Tritons took on GLVC East division leader Lewis University. The Flyers had been on a tear, winning ten straight with a win against Maryville on Friday and were expected to be a tough matchup for UMSL, having swept them last year. But coach Young was confident in his team, saying, “We have confidence on our home floor and like last night, if we play solid, I like our chances. But we have to be very disciplined against a very disciplined team.”
The Tritons seemed to take this challenge personally as both teams matched each other blow-for-blow through the first two sets. UMSL started off strong with the first three points of the set before Lewis struck back. After an awkward exchange at the net that resulted in an attack error, the Tritons found themselves down 9-12. After taking the decent lead, the Flyers did not look back, winning seven of the last eight points to take the set 25-16.
The second set started off much the same with a tug-of-war in the early going. Neither team was able to take control, and the Tritons were close at 17-18 when they finally pressed for the set with strong, well-executed attacks for eight straight points and a Pezze kill to tie the match up at a set apiece.
After a ten-minute intermission, the Flyers returned to form, winning the third set in quick fashion, capitalizing on miscues and errors from UMSL. However, the fourth set returned to the back-and-forth play we had seen earlier. Some timely timeouts from Young helped stymy runs from Lewis, giving his team a breather and letting them regroup mentally and physically. The lady Tritons pushed very hard through the whole set, diving at several balls to try and make saving digs, and despite some odd plays, they would pull points out of nowhere.
Unfortunately, on the strength of 11 blocks and 54 kills, the Lewis University Flyers took the match three sets to one with set scores of 25-16, 18-25, 25-15, 25-21. They improve to 12-1 (4-0 GLVC) while UMSL finishes the weekend with their record at 5-7 (2-2 GLVC).
Maddy Russell, freshman, nursing, led the team with 12 kills and two aces while Meyer helped her teammates with 18 assists and 17 digs. The UMSL Tritons women’s volleyball team next faces Lindenwood University on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Mark Twain Athletic and Fitness Center. They defeated the Lions 3-1 in their previous matchup.