LONDON, Ont. (from Western Mustangs) — A 19.5-point performance from Kelsey Veltman helped the Western Mustangs take down the York Lions in straight sets (25-11, 25-16, 25-12) on Sunday afternoon at Alumni Hall.
“A lot went well, I think it started with serving,” said Mustangs head coach Melissa Bartlett. “We served exceptionally well this weekend with minimal errors and hit our targets, and that as a big part of our success.”
The Mustangs currently sit in second in the OUA West, with a 10-3 record, and move to four points back of McMaster for first in the division.
Veltman’s 19.5 points led all players and came off 14 kills, two service aces, and seven assisted blocks. Melissa Langegger also hit double digits on Sunday with 10 points coming from six kills, three aces, and two assisted blocks.
“Everyone’s passing was perfect which put me up to have a perfect situation,” said Veltman. “Just going in I was thinking to hit it as hard as I could, I just went up and tried to see where the blockers were, and I just swung.”
Despite their dominant performance in the first set, claiming it by a score of 25-11, it was the York Lions who jumped out to an early lead, capitalizing on the Mustangs struggle with their serve control and several unforced errors. However, York never managed to gain more than a three-point lead on the Mustangs, who regained control of the game mid-way through the set.
“As coaches right now were trying to ask them to play a little more aggressively, and it’s coming out as some nervous errors at the start of sets,” said Bartlett. “I think we were ahead at five and ahead at 10 in every set, so as long as that trend continues, I’m ok with some early errors.”
After tying the set at nine points apiece, the Mustangs went on an impressive points run that saw them earn 13 unanswered points, going up 22-9 at one point on the Lions. York struggled to make solid contact with the ball in the back half of the set, resulting in 10 errors that bolstered the Mustangs dominant attack.
“We were able to split up their blockers really well, they never really knew who was going to get set,” said Kelsey Veltman. “We had a lot of one on ones, and we just told everyone to hit it as hard as they could, and it turned out really well.”
In the second set it was the Mustangs turn to jump out to an early lead, leading 11-5 after exchanging points to start the set. However, York managed to claw their way back in, tying things up at 12-12.
A strategic timeout taken by Bartlett saw the Mustangs come out flying, dominating the court and going on a seven-point run that saw them take a 19-12 lead. In the end, this would decide the set, as York managed only four more points, with the purple and white claiming the set by a nine-point differential at 25-16.
“We just talked about maintaining quality, because we got a little sloppy and we weren’t communicating well,” said Bartlett. “It just shows the maturity of the team that we were then able to go out and get the next seven points; it was a good reaction for our team.”
The third set saw another decisive victory, giving the Mustangs the match in straight sets. After tying things up at two points apiece, falling behind off of two errors, the Mustangs quickly took the lead and never looked back. The attack was a well-oiled machine, optimizing on every opportunity.
The Mustangs played a complete, well-rounded game, from attack to defence. Western made solid first contact and showed diversity and depth in their attack.
The purple and white blocking was phenomenal, with 11 blocks through the three sets, in comparison to York’s two. This is an impressive feat, even when considering that the Mustangs blocking is strong, to begin with.
Western’s defence did an excellent job limiting York’s opportunities, and shut-down their star player Celest Witzell, holding her to only four kills on 14 attempts.
“She’s one of the best middles in the OUA, and we really minimized her scoring opportunities and but the pressure on their outsides, and I knew that our blocking could contend with their outsides,” said Bartlett. “I think that’s definitely our strength as a team, I think were leading the OUA in blocking and close to top three in Canada.”
First-year Chloe Biel also had a strong showing for the Mustangs, with three aces in what was an excellent serving game.
“She went in and served sixteen in set one, and seven or eight in set two, and served exceptionally well yesterday,” said Bartlett. “Those types of contributions off the bench are really key.”
The Mustangs will be back in action when they hit the road to take on Toronto next Saturday, Feb. 2, at 6 pm EST, and Trent on Sunday, Feb. 3, at 6 pm EST.