Weber State University Volleyball traveled to Nebraska, only to leave disappointed. WSU competed in the Ameritas Players Challenge and fell to St. Mary’s College, Creighton University and University of Nebraska, all in just three sets.
“We were really excited to be a part of the tournament, because we were playing three top-25 teams,” said Caitlin Penrod, team captain and setter. “It’s a huge honor to play with that kind of competition and at that level. We were hoping to see what we were made of and what we could do against those kinds of teams.”
Junior outside hitter Bethany Wray said that it was intimidating to play those nationally ranked teams because they had preconceived notions of how the games would turn out.
“These teams, being as good as they are and having such a good reputation,” Wray said, “it was hard to not let that get in our heads before we even played them. That was one of the biggest handicaps we put on ourselves.”
On Thursday of last week, the team played SMC. The Gaels swept every set with scores of 25-16, 25-14 and 25-19. Wray continued her double-figure kills streak with this game. She ended her streak at nine matches in a row after this match.
Wray contributed 10 kills that game, and sophomore Briana Wilms added seven for the Wildcats. The team had a total of 23 digs against the Gaels and 11 errors. SMC had nine errors, 49 digs and 47 kills. SMC’s Lauren Corp had the high with 16 kills.
Friday, the Wildcats struggled in every aspect of the game against a strong effort from the Bluejays of CU. They were again swept away in three sets, with scores of 25-12, 25-13 and 25-18.
WSU had a negative attack percentage for the first time this season. Wray’s double-digit kill streak ended the game when she and Wilms only put up seven. Wray did, however, put up four blocks and seven digs. Penrod and libero Mikelle Kap had eight digs each for WSU. WSU had 25 errors, which really affected the final outcome of that match. The Bluejays had 13 errors, 32 digs and 41 kills against the Wildcats.
Saturday’s final match of the season was in the most hostile environment against the toughest opponent of the tournament. WSU fell to U of N 25-15, 25-7 and 25-16.
“It was a huge honor to play at the University of Nebraska, because that is one of the most established programs in the country,” Penrod said. “To play in the Coliseum against those calibers of teams was an amazing opportunity for us.”
Head Coach Tom Peterson said that this was a good learning experience for the team. They have played the best of the best and know now that they can play in any arena at any time. He said that, over time, their consistency will improve.
“We have to remember that we are battle-tested, not battle-weary,” Peterson said. “That is what we need to look forward to going into conference play.”
Early in the first set, WSU had a 14-12 lead when a hardship fell upon them that affected the entire team negatively. Kap injured her ACL ligament in her knee. This injury will prevent Kap from playing the rest of the season.
According to Peterson, even after her injury, Kap kept the team pushing through until the end of the game. Also, in the airport with her gimp leg, she attempted to carry not only her bags, but the extra equipment before the others on the team stepped in to relieve her from her duties.
“That was a blow to us; she is such a trooper,” Peterson said. “She is a great kid. It will be good to get her back, but for right now, we are going to miss her.”
WSU had 22 kills, 16 errors and 26 digs. U of N had 42 kills, nine errors and 42 digs. U of N outplayed WSU in every aspect of the game.
After the Ameritas Players Challenge tournament, WSU’s record stands at 0-9. WSU will play Boise State University on Tuesday at the Swenson Gym.
“We really appreciate the support that we had last week,” Penrod said. “We hope that people keep coming out, because it means the world to us. We are so thankful.”