Above: UMSL players celebrate after winning a point (Courtesy of Mary Chickos/The Current)
By Alex Neupert, Sports Editor
The University of Missouri—St. Louis Tritons took on Illinois-Springfield in women’s volleyball on October 31 at the Mark Twain Athletic & Fitness Center, sweeping the Prairie Stars in three straight sets. The victory makes the four-game home stand a 2-2 split as the season approaches the final month of action.
The team has had its ups and downs throughout the semester, starting with a tough tournament in Florida in early September. Since then, it has been a literal roller coaster, with two three-game winning streaks and a three-game losing streak interspersed among the rest of the schedule. As winter draws near, the players understand now more than ever how important everything is from this point on.
“We need to win the rest of our games to basically make it, so we can’t afford to lose anymore,” explained Jessica Ploss, senior, criminal justice, after the match was concluded. “That’s one of our goals—to just get the next six games. It’s my last year and the other four seniors and I really want this.”
Ploss was thick in the action trying to keep that hope alive against Illinois-Springfield, supplying three blocks and eight kills for the Tritons. Fellow senior Hannah Miller, graphic design, did her part as well, leading the team with 12 kills on the night and showing exceptional poise during her services. Overall, the team shot extremely well to a .213 attack percentage, over 30 points above their average on the year. With 37 assists to go along with that, it was clear the women were on point.
“We’ve been really working hard on working together as a team,” said Olivia Gillum, freshman, undeclared. Gillum personified her own words, diving on multiple occasions to give her teammates a chance to win points that should have been lost. “We had lots of good energy on the court and bench,” she added. “It was 100 percent effort out there.”
The Tritons came out of the gates strong, winning the first set handily 25-10. While the second set was closer, with UMSL taking it 25-15, the Prairie Stars were clearly outmatched, failing to take a lead until a few points into the third set. The team did not have much chemistry compared to the Tritons. There were several instances of a lack of communication in the first two sets as players bumped into each other, let the ball drop, and the same player hit the ball twice, among other errors. The match concluded on a lift ball—rather anticlimactic.
While UMSL managed to secure the victory with little trouble, they faltered briefly in the final set. Illinois-Springfield managed to string together five straight points to an 11-7 lead before UMSL head coach Ryan Young took an opportune time-out. All his athletes seemed to need was a little breather, and when play resumed, the Triton women soon closed out the contest, finishing the third set 25-19.
With the victory at home, UMSL improves to 12-14 (6-7 Great Lakes Valley Conference) on the year. The Tritons’ volleyball team will play its next four matches on the road and will return to the home courts on November 13 at 7 p.m.