by Abigail Hintz
Cedarville volleyball lost a tight match Tuesday night against Malone University, 3-1. The Pioneers took down the Jackets with no set ending more than three points apart (23-25, 26-24, 22-25, 26-28). Cedarville is now 2-11 overall and sixth place (1-5) in the G-MAC West, while Malone moves to second place in the East.
Senior outside hitter Taylor Wilkerson led the stat sheet with 21 kills, 25 digs and two aces. Sophomore middle hitter Lauren Willow also stood out, chalking up 12 kills.
Cedarville came out of the gate swinging, making Malone’s scrappy defense work hard and fast. Malone’s play began to clean up towards the end of the first set, when they went on several three and four point runs to tie the match for the first time at 16. Head coach Greg Smith said this style of play was something the Jackets knew was coming and were prepared for.
“They have a very balanced, very disciplined team,” said Smith. “We knew it was going to be a ball-control oriented match.”
In the second set, Cedarville went on a five point run to take the lead and switch momentum after being down 8-5. From then on it was a game of back and forth, as neither team was going down without a fight. The set was tied up at 18, and from then on the teams stayed within two of each other until freshman Sara Beste put the Pioneers away to end the set 26-24.
Set three followed the same pattern, with the Lady Jackets going down only to make a surging comeback. Malone went on a five point run early on, but Cedarville forced its way back in and the team alternated scoring from there. Malone seemed to figure out the Lady Jackets’ strong block in this set after being stuffed by it several times earlier in the game. They now used it to their advantage, winning the set 25-22.
The Pioneers once again took the lead in the fourth set only to be caught by the fighting Lady Jackets. The home crowd definitely played a part in Cedarville’s play at this stage of the match, getting the girls hyped up with every point. The Jackets didn’t go down easy, but their fight simply wasn’t enough as Malone finally finished the game 28-26.
Wilkerson seemed to be the momentum shifter for her team throughout the match, making big plays whenever her team needed it, despite Malone’s adaptable defense. She credits her confidence in those moments to her teammates.
“They’re the ones that are getting me the ball. It’s all on them,” said the senior.
Head Coach Greg Smith believes the match was good for his team, despite the result.
“I wouldn’t say that we’re happy about the loss, but I feel like we did a lot of nice things tonight. We were a lot more consistent, and we’ve just got to learn how to play every point that way.”
Cedarville now looks to a road trip to Ohio Valley on Friday. Tuesday’s game gives the team momentum heading into the G-MAC competition. Wilkerson says her team is excited, and mentally preparing to go after another team.
Coach Smith is confident and ready to keep pushing, saying, “I feel like we’re in a better position now then we were four weeks ago.”
The Jackets continue their G-MAC play for the foreseeable future, and will be back at home Sep. 25.