By Jack Bell, Sports Editor
Macomb, IL- The Western Illinois Women’s Volleyball team is set to hit the road this week as they head up to North Dakota. The Leathernecks will take on the Bison of North Dakota State (13-7, 6-2) on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. WIU dropped the first match against NDSU 3-0 earlier this season in Macomb. NDSU is red hot to start conference play, as they are currently 6-2 and sitting comfortably in third place in the conference standings.
After the match in Fargo Thursday, Western will make the short trip to Grand Forks to take on the Fighting Hawks of the University of North Dakota (18-12, 5-3). These two teams began the conference schedule against one another in Macomb. The Hawks defeated WIU 3-1 in the match. WIU got off to a great start, winning the first set of the match. But North Dakota got their feet underneath them and were able to win three straight sets and knock off Western Illinois.
Injuries have plagued the Leathernecks this season. Both setters, Jessie Connell and Maggie Cracker are both sidelined with injuries. Senior Gabby DePersio and newcomer Ella Godsell have stepped up in their absence. DePersio earned a double-double in the loss against Oral Roberts last Tuesday in a game where she had 15 assists and 12 digs. Godsell has compiled 23 assists over the last three games for Western Illinois. Sophomore Brittany Wulf leads the team with 221 kills thus far. While sophomore libero Karli Wenzel leads the team with 282 digs this year. Wenzel has recorded double digit digs in 17 of the 19 games this season, including recording a career high 31 digs in the win over Texas Southern. She is on pace to blow her dig total out of the water from a year ago.
Inconsistent play from WIU has been their kryptonite this season. With the injuries to Cracker, Connell, and newcomer Grace Nichols, the Leathernecks need their top performers to continue performing at a high level, while having some new faces step up to get back to their winning ways we saw earlier in the year.