WINDSOR, Ont. (from Western Mustangs) – The Mustangs came back after dropping the first set to upend the Windsor Lancers, taking a four set victory (17-25, 25-31, 25-21, 25-19) at the St. Denis Athletic Centre on Sunday afternoon.
With the win, Western continues to hold down second place in the OUA West. The Mustangs have built up an impressive 12-4 record, which will allow them to remain seeded second in the West regardless of the outcome of their next three games.
However, Windsor is currently tied for third place with the Guelph Gryphons. Both teams hold 7-10 records, but the Brock Badgers are only one win behind and could end up taking the final playoff spot.
Kelsey Veltman led the Mustangs with 20.5 total points, topping both sides of the scoresheet with 15 kills, five aces and an assisted block. This marks the third match in a row that Veltman has recorded five aces. The only other athlete on either team to match Veltman’s prowess at the service line was fellow middle Danielle Grasman, who also had five aces.
Kristina Curcin was close behind Veltman with 17.5 total points, also recording 15 kills alongside two solo blocks and an assisted block.
Lexi Pollard, who was the second highest scoring athlete of the match behind Veltman, led Windsor. Her 16 kills, ace and three assisted blocks was good for 18.5 points, and was followed on the scoresheet by rookie Paige Phills who totaled 15.5 points, from 13 kills, two aces and an assisted block.
The first set was characterized by short rallies that rarely saw the ball cross the net twice after the serve. Aja Gyimah and Pollard established themselves as the primary offensive threats on the floor, with both leading their respective teams in kills.
Western and Windsor traded points fairly consistently for the first half of the set, until the Lancers broke the deadlock after tying it up at 12-12.
Windsor went on a six-point run to carry the team through the technical and establish a dominating lead that the Mustangs were unable to come back from.
In addition to the performance of Pollard in the frontcourt, the Lancers relied on strong serving to trip up the Mustangs. Hard flat serves proved to be a weak point for the purple and white as both Pollard and Jessica Arnds recorded aces.
For their part, the Mustangs had an uncharacteristically error-filled set. The team hitting percentage was 0.069, which was less than a third of the Lancers’.
Windsor rushed through the final points taking the first set 25-17.
The Mustangs switched up their lineup for the second set, moving Veltman to the left side and putting in Curcin as the second middle.
Curcin, a transfer from the University at Buffalo Bulls, made a difference within seconds after stepping on the floor. She generated six points for the Mustangs throughout the set while recording only one attack error, and also formed a commanding block with Veltman.
Serving continued to be a point of strength for Windsor, but the Mustangs were also able to hold their own. Grasman had two aces, while Veltman had one, and both forced the Lancers to scramble and return a free ball on more than one occasion.
The biggest change, however, came from the Mustangs attack. Set one saw the team send several balls well beyond the confines of the court, but the team was more disciplined in the second set.
Coming out of the technical timeout, the Mustangs held a slim lead but Windsor soon closed the gap to tie the set at 19-19.
The Lancers came back from what was earlier a five-point deficit by adjusting their defensive coverage to account for Veltman playing on the left. Windsor was careful to close off the cross-court shot with their blockers and planted a player in the backcourt as insurance.
Gyimah would bring an end to the set with a pair of kills, giving the Mustangs a narrow 25-23 victory.
Set three began much like the previous two, with Western and Windsor trading points and the score slowly progressing.
Both teams received more technical violations than in the previous sets combined, with net violations being the most common offense.
Despite having issues at the net, Western was phenomenal at the service line. Veltman racked up three consecutive aces while Grasman earned her third of the game.
Blocking continued to play a large role for both teams, although the bulk were continued thanks to careful coverage. Emily McCloskey in particular had a strong set, and was able to get hands on attacks from Western’s best, while Phills was also making an impact.
It would be serving that ultimately won the Mustangs the set, with Taylor Beedie recording her eighth ace of the season to bring the score to 25-21.
Serving continued to take centre stage in the fourth set, with Grasman opening scoring with Western’s tenth ace of the match. McCloskey responded with strong serving of her own, serving six straight and earning one ace.
After the first few points the two teams settled into rally play as serve receive improved for both teams.
Gyimah and Curcin were both successful at the net and continually forced the Lancers into technical errors. Windsor struggled to keep their passes off the net and as a result setter Brooke Davis became somewhat of a lightning rod for technical calls.
The score was tied at 17-17, but the Mustangs would go on a lengthy run to end the set at 25-19.
Curcin and Gyimah continued to helm the offensive effort, with the pair recording several kills. Beedie also played a large role in closing out the set, with a pair of kills herself.
As a whole, the fourth set was the most offensively sound for the Mustangs. With only five errors and 18 kills, the final set of the match final saw Western running the effective and fast-paced offensive that has become characteristic of the Mustangs in recent years. Western wrapped things up with a 25-19 win to take the match in four sets.
The Mustangs will return to the floor next weekend, when they travel for Hamilton for their penultimate weekend of the regular season. Western will take on the OUA West leading McMaster Marauders on Saturday, February 17 at the Burridge Gymnasium. Game time is set for 12 p.m.