After attracting a record-breaking 1,063 fans to Racer Arena last weekend, Racer volleyball served up two more wins to keep them in first place in the OVC.
On Friday, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (2-8) took early leads in every set, but the Racers came back each time, taking the first set 25-22, the second set 25-18 and finally taking the match with a third set of 25-23.
Head Coach David Schwepker said the match started out rough, but the team worked together to come back.
“We started off sluggish,” Schwepker said. “We didn’t play great but we managed to play strong and hard. Some people stepped up when they needed to and the team is learning how to work together.”
The next day the Racers had a tough morning against Eastern Illinois (4-6). After a typical back and forth first set, the Panthers won the first set at 22-25. The Racers roared back and took the next three sets at 25-21, 25-19 and finally 25-12.
“I thought we started out shaky but quickly turned ourselves around,” said redshirt sophomore right side hitter Kristen Besselsen from St. Louis. “We picked it up and continued to show everyone how strong we are.”
Besselsen turned in 13 kills to go along with her career-high 19 digs. She said she is proud of her performance, but the credit should be shared.
“My teammates are the ones who hit the ball to me and they are the ones I have to thank for helping me reach it,” Besselsen said.
The OVC Tournament is coming up in a month, and Schwepker and Besselsen both said they hope to do well.
“I say it every week, but I hope we just stay focused,” Schwepker said. “I hope we don’t get caught up in our wins and losses. I want them to play the way they have and do what they are supposed to do.”
With fans fueled by free shirts, the team had a record high attendance last weekend of 1,063, which exceeded the goal of 1,024. Schwepker said it was great to see all the fans, but the team was caught off guard by the excitement of the crowd.
“I want there to be people at every home game,” Schwepker said. “The girls absolutely loved having the hype and enthusiasm of the crowd. The girls weren’t exactly ready for it but once they learned how to play they did well.”
The team has a game in Racer Arena today against Jacksonville State (7-3) at 7 p.m. and another Saturday against Tennessee Tech (6-4) at 6 p.m. Besselsen said they’ve not played these teams yet this season and it could be a game changer.
“I want this weekend to go as well or better than last weekend,” Besselsen said. “I hope to come out and do what we do best—play volleyball.”
Story by Kelsey Randolph, Assistant Sports Editor