The Racers defeated UT Martin last weekend, ending a streak of six consecutive losses.
“The game against SIU Edwardsville a few weeks ago was just a disaster,” Head Coach David Schwepker said. “It was the low point of our season. I can’t coach quitters and that was one thing that disappointed me with them.”
Murray State (5-20, 3-12 OVC) kept the pace with division-leading Southeast Missouri State (19-12, 11-4 OVC) last Friday, defeating the Redhawks in the second set. SEMO took the other three, eliminating the Racers from playoff contention.
The Racers did not let the match against SEMO interrupt their ability to compete the next night. In the third set of the match against UT Martin, the Racers picked up several strong runs and had a 471 hitting percentage. Murray State defeated the Skyhawks 25-11 in the frame.
Schwepker said he has seen a consistent trend in the girls’ play at the end of the season.
“We saw two strong sets in a row in a few games, which, to me, is definite improvement from where they were,” Schwepker said. “We played UT Martin strongly and had several big runs while they didn’t have any. That’s the maturing process in this sport, I hope they see their hard work is paying off. ”
Over the weekend, senior Lydia Orf was the backbone of the defense, Schwepker said. Orf was recently named libero for the Racers and gave the team 25 digs against SEMO and 19 against UT Martin.
“(Orf) is getting to some really hard digs, as well as accomplishing routine plays,” Schwepker said.
Another Murray State senior reached impressive numbers against both SEMO and UT Martin. Wendi Zickfield notched her third consecutive double-double of the season. Zickfield totaled 27 kills and 30 digs for the weekend.
“(Zickfield) is making a turn as an athlete,” Schwepker said. “She’s becoming an actual player instead of just going through the motions. She’s probably the biggest turn around in an athlete I’ve seen all season.”
Since the beginning of the season, Schwepker has recognized the youth of the team to be a challenge. During both matches, several freshmen stepped up to the level Schwepker has been pushing them toward.
“As coaches, we really want to see growth and maturity through their experience on the court,” Schwepker said.
Against SEMO, freshman Emily Schmahl gained a career best 20 kills for the match. The next night she turned in 17 kills for the Racers. Freshman Alyssa Lelm tied with Danielle Sutterer (2003) for the 10th best single-season block assist total with one against SEMO.
“The question has been all season, when are they going to learn to step up?” Schwepker said. “(Schmahl) has done a great job, reaching high and hitting hard.”
Schwepker said he hopes the women come back next year with the fight they have shown at the end of this season. He said the team has improved incredibly in hitting ability and he thinks the Racers will have consistent hitting percentages of at least .200.
The Racers end their season at 2 p.m. Saturday in Racer Arena against Eastern Kentucky.
Story by Lexy Gross, Staff writer.