Double-Doubles Help Propel Leathernecks to Five-Set Road Victory

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Primed for another road test, Western Illinois volleyball (4-19, 3-9) visited North Dakota (1-23, 0-12) for the start of week six in Summit League play on Thursday evening (Oct. 28). Battling in an outing that went down to the very wire, WIU hung on to claim the night in five sets (26-24, 28-30, 22-25, 25-20, 15-13).

Western officially completes a regular-season sweep over the Fighting Hawks.

“Very happy with how our kids never let up in making the match as competitive as possible,” said WIU head coach Ben Staupe. “Continuing this boost into the weekend will be huge for us.”

A Karli Wenzel service ace had WIU sitting at 6-4 in the opening set. A connection between Brittany Wulf and Maggie Craker worked well throughout the following minutes of play for Western, while UND climbed back to trail only 18-17. Kennedy Davis then took over on both ends, but the Fighting Hawks accelerated on yet another run. With the score soon even at 24, Kennedy and Kalynn Davis netted a kill apiece to put on the finishing touches, 26-24.

Three consecutive errors by UND gave Western an 8-7 lead in the second period. After seeing the Leathernecks commit a few mistakes of their own, the Fighting Hawks got rolling a bit to go up 15-12. The Davis sisters continued to play all over the floor for WIU, but UND stayed sharp to increase its lead to 21-17 before the Leathernecks called for a timeout. Three straight points by Western cut the deficit to 21-20 and stayed aggressive to force extra points once again. Peyton Bowman and Aubrey Putman made key kills during the final stretch, but UND eventually plugged in a 30-28 finish.

Emma Norris jumped into the starting lineup for set three and immediately produced two kills. Nevertheless, UND seized control again — tallying three slams in a row to move ahead 13-7. WIU’s hitters picked up a few successful possessions, and the offense began clicking. Karli Wenzel’s service ace had Western down 18-16, and the Leathernecks found themselves down by one point moments later. A few traded punches led to UND winning set three, 25-22.

Putman was on absolute fire early in set four, throwing down four straight kills to put WIU up 8-5. UND struggled to get the ball over the net in some sequences, keeping the Leathernecks ahead, 14-9. The rest of the frame continued as a story of Western maintaining its edge and capitalizing UND errors en route to a 25-20 victory.

Entering the fifth set, a pair of service errors by each side took place before Kennedy Davis smacked a kill to tie things 4-4. Norris helped give WIU a slight lead, 8-6, but defensive stops helped UND retake the margin, 10-9. A powerful hit from Bowman created the first of two tied scores, and Kalynn Davis came up with a timely block to give WIU small space in front. A final service error by the hosts ended the night, 15-13, in Western’s favor.

Craker posted a remarkable line of 46 assists and 33 digs, both career-highs. She is the only Leatherneck to reach numbers over 40 and 30 in two statistical categories during a single match this year.

Putman (12 kills and 22 digs) and Wenzel (10 assists and 27 digs) recorded double-doubles of their own. The latter marked a new career-high in digs and added three service aces.

Kennedy Davis had one of her most efficient hitting nights of the season — 17 kills on a .484 clip. Bowman and Wulf chipped in 10 kills apiece. It is the first match of the fall in which four or more Leathernecks tallied 10+ kills. Norris and Erika Moore contributed seven kills and 14 digs, respectively.

As a team, Western outperformed UND in aces (6-3) and digs (122-118).

On Saturday (Oct. 30), the Leathernecks face North Dakota State at 11 a.m.


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