Volleyball Splits Weekend


Last weekend Billikens’ volleyball hosted the Davidson Wildcats, winning their first match Friday night but losing in three sets Saturday afternoon. With the loss to the Billikens, the Wildcats are no longer undefeated in conference play, meaning the Loyola Chicago Ramblers are now top of the Atlantic 10. With a 13 and 8 record, the Billikens have the third best overall record in the conference, but due to a mediocre 5-4 conference record, they are currently fifth out of ten. 

The Bills started the weekend slowly, losing their first set 15-25. However,  head coach Kent Miller had the necessary words to turn it around in  between the first and second sets worked however, as the Billikens won the set 25-19 despite the Wildcats starting off the set with a 6-0 run. 

     Winning the second set gave the Billikens some much-needed momentum as they won the third and fourth sets 25-17 and 25-12. SLU’s win came with the help of 14 kills by junior outside hitter Emily Henken, who is 7th in the conference in kills per set at 3.04 and sixth in the conference in points per set at 3.57. 

      Other key contributors to Friday’s win were junior right side hitter Delaney Rice, junior middle blocker Jillian Mattingly, sophomore setter Kate Aupperle, junior setter Abby Lynn and junior libero Carlie Rodgers. Rice had 10 kills and 3 blocks in her 11.5 point performance; meanwhile Mattingly, who is third in the conference in hitting percentage at 34%, recorded a career high 10 blocks and six kills in her 11 points. The Billikens had 11 blocks all game and Mattingly was part of 10 of them. Aupperle is 6th in the conference in assists per set at 6.79 and contributed 20 assists to SLU’s win on Friday alongside 19 from Lynn. Together the two made up almost 89% of SLU’s assists against Davidson. Rodgers contributed 4 assists as well, adding onto two service aces while helping anchor the Billikens’ defense with 21 of SLU’s 60 digs. Rodgers leads the conference in aces at 0.58 per set and is second in digs per set at4.83.Overall Saint Louis outperformed Davidson in five of the six major statistics, the sixth being a tie. The Bills had 63.5 points to Davidson’s 52, 46 kills to their 42, 11 blocks to their four, 44 assists to their 40, 60 digs to their 55 and matched their six aces with six of their own. The Wildcats were routed for the night but returned the following afternoon to challenge the Billikens for redemption.

The Billikens walked into Chaifetz Pavilion with confidence on Saturday afternoon, but the Wildcats prowled in with something stronger-chips on their shoulders. The Billikens had just stripped them of their status as the top team in the Atlantic 10 and of their shot of going undefeated in conference play. They wanted revenge on the Billikens for their disappointing loss the night before and took it. 

     The Billikens beat them in four sets on Friday, and on Saturday the Wildcats won in three. The night prior they were outperformed in five of six statistical categories, and on Saturday they outperformed SLU in all six. Davidson’s Sola Omonije, a junior middle blocker, had 5 kills on Friday on a poor .059 hitting percentage. She stepped up on Saturday for a team-high of 10 kills on a .474 percentage to tie her season high in points with 11. Senior middle blocker Anela Davis leads the A10 in blocks at 1.5 per set but had only two on Friday night. 

      She tripled that number on Saturday with six blocks in one less set played. Also crucial to the Wildcat win were sophomore outside hitter Isabel Decker and junior libero Bella Brady. Decker, who is eighth in the conference in points at 3.49 per set, led the Wildcats in points in both matches with 12 points on Friday and 11.5 on Saturday. Decker had just as many kills with two fewer errors, leading to a hitting percentage of .143 compared to the previous night’s .067. Decker also stepped up defensively, rising up for a career high of 3 blocks. Brady and Rodgers anchor the two best defenses in the Atlantic 10. Brady’s Wildcats allow an opponent hitting percentage of only .161 and she hits 5.17 digs per set, beating out Rodgers and the Billikens who host a second-best .18 opponent hitting percentage and Rodgers’ 4.83 digs per set. The Wildcats, led by Brady, won the battle for best defense in four of the weekend’s seven sets.

        The Billikens felt the absence of two of their most prominent offensive options this weekend, as sophomore right side hitter Mak Hill and freshman outside hitter Irmak Gokcen played a combined three sets all weekend, contributing a total of two points. Hill averages the second most points per set on the team at 2.78 and Gokcen is second in the conference only to her teammate Rodgers in aces per set at 0.53. No other players in the conference average more than 0.5 aces per set. 

       The Billikens had as many kills as errors on Saturday, contrasting Friday’s hitting percentage of .211. Coach Miller will need to make corrections as he and the Bills enter the final third of the regular season. After being upset by eventual finalists, Fordham, in the first round of last year’s tournament, Miller knows that seeding is not everything come the postseason and that, if he needs to, he can make adjustments while he still has time. 

       The remainder of the schedule is entirely conference opponents and could include SLU’s matchup in the bracket. The Billikens are on pace to win five of their final nine matches, which would give them a final record of 18 and 12 overall and 10 and 8 in conference play. Next weekend’s series is against the Rams of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, who recently beat defending conference champions Dayton in four sets and have an identical conference record to SLU. That series could be a strong indicator of SLU’s ceiling this season.