After a tough loss at McMaster on Friday night, the women’s volleyball team returned home for their first home game of 2018 on Saturday. A win against Western would bring the Badgers another step closer to their goal of a playoff berth.
Brock started the second part of the season against a McMaster team sitting in the top spot in the west division. In the past, the holiday break proved to be a challenge for the Badgers. Last season the team returned in January and lost eight of their nine games, all but ending their shot at playoffs. This season in an almost identical situation, the Badgers needed to make sure that they started the new year in the win column.
Things got off to a rough start against the Marauders, ultimately leading to a 3-0 loss for Brock. McMaster showed why they are ranked sixth in the country, and the Badgers saw that there is still work that needs to be done to reach that level of success. Despite the result, the Badgers still had strong play from Renee Helmer who led the team with six kills and five digs, while Emily Armstrong had 19 assists. On the other side of the court, the Marauders were led by Caitlin Genovy’s 28 assists while Hailey Kranics had seven kills.
Badgers coach Dale Melnick praised the strong performance put together by the Marauders.
“They’re tremendous. They played error-free volleyball for the first two sets, there’s no doubt that they deserve to be ranked number six in the country,” said Melnick. “We’re not surprised by the outcome, but we’re disappointed and we’re upset. We didn’t expect them to play that well and we didn’t react well to that.”
After a tough opponent on Friday, things did not get easier for the Badgers on Saturday night. Western entered the contest sitting in second place in the west division, and along with McMaster was the only other team with a winning record in the division.
Brock got off to a hot start, taking an early 9-2 lead before Western called their first timeout. The Mustangs were able to close the gap in large part because of the serving from Melissa Langegger, who had four aces on the day. They narrowed the margain of deficit by three points, bringing the score to 13-10. After a Brock timeout, the Badgers went on a five point run to extend the lead to eight points. Despite a late push by the Mustangs, Brock was able to hold on long enough to win the first set 25-22.
Western scored the first five points of the second set, on their way to an early 9-3 lead before Brock called a timeout. Unfortunately, the set did not get much better and the Mustangs continued to put pressure on the Badgers. By the technical timeout they were up 16-8, and they kept the momentum going after that too, increasing the lead to 19-12 before Brock called another timeout in a last ditch effort to stop the run. Despite their efforts it was too little, too late for Brock and the Mustangs were able to take the set 25-18.
The third set began almost the exact same way, with Western taking an early 7-2 lead before a Badgers timeout. Coming out of the timeout, the Badgers were able to claw away at the deficit with some strong serving from Renee Helmer. The Badgers found themselves with the lead, but it was short-lived as Western found themselves back in front late 23-21. The Badgers refused to quit, and tied the game at 24. With neither team able to string together consecutive points, the Badgers were hanging around in a set that it seemed they were out of early. But in the end, the Mustangs took it by a slight edge 30-28.
“Volleyball is a game of momentum, and with that there’s always an opportunity to shift the momentum. We were down a couple of points in that third set, but it could’ve gone either way,” said Melnick of the team’s ability to stay in sets.
The Badgers were able to stay in the set early in the fourth, once again with the help from strong serving from Helmer. Brock was able to pull ahead 12-11 before a Western timeout stopped their run. Coming out of the timeout, Western pulled ahead and was able to carry their run through until the end of the set and came out with a 25-19 win for a 3-1 victory.
With the loss, the Badgers fell to 2-6 on the season, but are still just out of a playoff spot with the least amount of games played in the division.
The Badgers next game comes against the team that currently holds the fourth and final playoff spot, the Windsor Lancers, on Friday at 6 p.m. in Bob Davis Gym.