WIU had three games in Starkville, Mississippi this weekend as part of the Starkvegas tournament and came out of the weekend 1-2 on the season.
They started Friday afternoon with the Devilettes of Mississippi Valley State. The Leathernecks took MVSU down in three straight sets with scores 25-14, 25-20, and 25-12 in set 3.
Then it was onto game two of Friday, this time at night against the Chattanooga Mocs. Western did not have the same success as they had with the Devilettes. Chattanooga won in a three set sweep of the Leathernecks 25-20, 25-19, 25-14.
Sophomore Mariah Mitchell lead WIU in game two with 10 kills.
At 2 p.m. on Saturday, it was time for the main event with a get away game for WIU. Their final task was a bout with the SEC’s Mississippi State Bulldogs, who were the hosts of the tournament. The game was live on SEC+.
In set one, the Bulldogs felt no benefits of home cooking. The Leathernecks went about the dispatching of their hosts in quick fashion 25-15. JoJo Kruzie put on a show in set one and had half of her eventual team leading 16 kills.
During set two, the Leathernecks were the ones who fell flat, losing a mistake ridden set 25-19. WIU was tied with the power 5 bulldogs 1-1 heading into the break.
During set three, the Leathernecks found the switch and turned on their lights while knocking out those of Mississippi State. They won convincingly 25-15 and looked as though they would be home free to pull off a stunner in game 3 of the season.
Set four was the most competitive and resembled a heavyweight boxing match. Each team traded points, unwilling to let it slip away. Late in the set on game point up 24-23, the Leathernecks let the chance slip away and would lose the set 26-24 after 3 unanswered Bulldog points. After four sets, the Leathernecks and Bulldogs were tied, two sets a piece.
Set five was the decider no matter what, there will be a winner. Unfortunately the Leathernecks did not fair well in set five losing the set and the game 15-7.
WIU may have lost, but there will be lessons learned and experience against great talent gained. Beyond that, the Leathernecks beat the Bulldogs in most statistical categories. they had more points, kills, aces, blocks (by a massive margin), tied in assists, and were just one off in digs.
Makenzie Steckler lead WIU in the biggest area of difference. Mississippi State had 9 blocks in the entire game as a team, Steckler had 12 by herself in the game. They were led in kills by Kruzie with 16 and Mitchell with 13.
Western Illinois will be looking to build on their performance September 6th and 7th when they go on the road again to Cape Girardeau Missouri and play in the Redhawks invitational.