DEKALB, Ill. - Fighting Leatherneck volleyball concluded non-conference play on Friday (Sept. 20) at the NIU Huskie Invitational. The Leathernecks fell to George Washington, 3-2, in the opener but came back to defeat former conference foe Oakland, 3-2, in the finale. Senior setter Sarah Fetter was named to the all-tournament team after finishing the two matches with 94 assists.
"We lost a hard fought match against a strong, athletic George Washington team earlier today," said head coach April Hall. "We had two choices after that match: crumble or conquer. We chose tonight against Oakland to make a statement to ourselves for the rest of the season, and we conquered. Our statement (which I hope lasts all season) was 'united we stand, divided we fall'. Through selfless play, positives attitudes, and a relentless pursuit of the ball, we helped each other succeed. When one person faltered, a teammate came rushing in to pick them up. It was so amazing to be a part of and I'm proud of our efforts. That match was a great end to a long, hard and enduring pre-conference schedule. I can't wait to get this team back in the gym to prepare for conference."
George Washington 3, Western Illinois 2
The Leathernecks took the opening set, 25-19, jumping out to an early 1-0 lead. Samantha Fournier recorded six kills in the opening set with a .455 hitting %. Fetter added nine assists for the Purple & Gold in set one to lead the way. Western went on two separate four-point runs during the set to widen the gap and earn the victory.
Set two saw George Washington never trail as the Colonials won 25-11 to even the match at 1-1. The Purple & Gold came back in set three however, winning 25-20 to retake the lead, 2-1. The third set was tied at 15-15 when Heather Smith and Ann Miller combined for a block to give Western a lead that they would not relinquish.
George Washington took the fourth set, 25-21, to even the match at 2-2. The set started out back-and-forth before the Colonials took a 17-13 advantage. The Leathernecks came back to even the match at 18-18, forcing George Washington to call a timeout. After the timeout the Colonials re-took the lead and held on for the four-point victory.
The fifth and final set went to George Washington, 16-14, to give the Colonials the 3-2 victory. Western trailed early in the set before coming back to tie things up at 14-14. Another timeout by George Washington proved to be beneficial as the Colonials took the final two points to win the match.
Miller and Fournier each recorded 16 kills, while Smith notched nine for Western.
Western Illinois 3, Oakland 2
Oakland took the opening set, 25-23, to take the early 1-0 lead. The set was back-and-forth until the Golden Grizzlies recorded four straight points midway through to take the opening set.
The Leathernecks took set two, 25-19, to even the match at 1-1. The set was tied at 10-10 early on before Fournier recorded a kill that gave Western the lead. The Purple & Gold would not lose the lead on their way to the set victory.
Western never trailed in the third set, winning 25-23 to take the match lead. Oakland took the fourth set, 25-21, to tie the match and send it to a fifth and final set.
In the final set, the Leathernecks maintained composure to pick up the 15-12 victory. Western improves to 6-9 on the season after the win while Oakland falls to 6-7.
Fournier led the Leathernecks in the final match, recording 24 kills to finish the day with 40 total kills. Miller wasn’t far behind, picking up 20 kills in the final match to finish the day with 36. Miller also had a season-best 21 digs in the final match.
Fetter notched 52 more assists in the final match, giving her 94 for the day. The senior continues to move closer to fourth-place on the all-time assists list, she currently has 2,705 and is just 235 assists away from fourth.
Murphy and Fetter led the Leathernecks defensively, recording 23 digs apiece. The 23 digs for Fetter is a new career-high for the Moline, Ill. native, whose previous best was 21 in 2011.
Fighting Leatherneck volleyball will open conference play beginning next Saturday (Sept. 28) against Omaha. The match is slated to begin at 5 p.m. in Omaha, Neb.