Volleyball ranked No. 1

Jenny Rohl/The News Sophomore libero Ellie Lorenz sets a ball at practice Tuesday at Racer Arena.
Jenny Rohl/The News Sophomore libero Ellie Lorenz sets a ball at practice Tuesday at Racer Arena.

Jenny Rohl/The News
Sophomore libero Ellie Lorenz sets a ball at practice Tuesday at Racer Arena.

After two wins last weekend, the Racer volleyball team is now 7-1 in the OVC and solo atop the conference standings.

Coming back from their 2013 season finish of 6-10 in the conference and a 2012 season of 4-12, the Racers have turned their fortune around.

“I think the team has all around just grown up,” said Head Coach David Schwepker. “We had a lot of young team members last year, and it’s hard to play at this level that young. The girls have grown together and learned how to work off each other. Hopefully they continue to grow and take every chance to learn a lesson.”

Including today’s match against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, the Racers have eight regular season games left before the OVC Tournament.

“We’re halfway and it’s tough to determine how we will do,” Schwepker said. “I don’t know what the magic number is to get us into the tournament, but I do know we are working hard and it’s great to see us doing so well.”

The Racers passed a key test Friday with a three-set win over Belmont (6-2) in Nashville, Tenn. The Racers started with a back and forth battle in the first set before putting it away, 25-22. The women finished off the other two sets with scores of 25-21 and 25-19.

“We could have played better,” Schwepker said. “What I did like is that they kept playing and did not let the mistakes get to them. The team went hard and finished on top, which is what matters.”

The next day the Racers held a consistent score on all three sets against Tennessee State (2-6). They came out ahead of the Tigers 25-17 in the first set, 25-16 in the second and 25-17 in the third.

“We started all the sets pretty back and forth,” said Kristen Besselsen, redshirt sophomore from St. Louis. “Once we hit the 10-point mark we just kept going up. They made a lot of errors and we didn’t.”

Schwepker said Tennessee State wasn’t at full strength, with some players out on injuries. Schwepker noted that the Tigers could be dangerous once they’re healthy again.

After the team faces SIUE today in Racer Arena at 7 p.m., it will face Eastern Illinois Saturday at 11 a.m., also at home.

“The greatest thing we could have are our fans,” Schwepker said. “We used to do bad at home because they weren’t sure how to play together. Now they are confident and it pays off to see their friends and family in the bleachers. We love to have everyone get loud and crazy; it motivates the team.”

The Racers have played the weekend’s upcoming opponents on the road, winning in four sets against each.

Story by Kelsey RandolphAssistant Sports Editor