Wheeling, W. Va. – After clinching a Mountain East Conference (MEC) playoff spot last week, the race to host this year’s tournament is on. The Wheeling University Volleyball team continues on that path when they host their final two regular season home games. On Friday, they take on Notre Dame College in MEC action and follow that up with senior day on Saturday when they take on Bluefield State at 1 PM. It will be a final chance in the regular season for some of the Cardinals to play in front of their home fans as they shoot for a pair of wins.
Last time out, the Cardinals battled MEC North Division foe Frostburg State and they picked up a big 3-0 win. Although, each set was a battle as the Bobcats were able to keep up with the Cardinals throughout the night. In the first two sets, the Cardinals would get early advantages but would have to hold off a Bobcats comeback to pick up 25-20 wins to take a 2-0 lead. Set three was another close battle between the two teams as the score sat at 11-11 before a 5-1 run created separation. The Cardinals would go on to win 25-17 and improve to 12-1 in MEC play.
The Cardinals offense had a big all-around day, hitting over .300 for the third time in the last four games, hitting .333 on the night. Four Cardinals ended in double digit kills for the night, led by Allonda Watkins’ 11 kill effort. She was followed by Lexi Smith, Tylah Yeomans, and Riley Kindall who each finished with 10 kills on the day. Watkins continues to chase down the 1,000-kill mark for her collegiate career and enters the weekend needing 150 kills to reach the mark. She is Wheeling’s second leading attacker this season and looks to continue to be a big part of the offense down the stretch.
Setter Karly Niesen has been making the Cardinals go on both sides of the ball as she sets up the offense and helps the back row. She led Wheeling to another .300+ hitting percentage day and added five kills and a .500 hitting percentage of her own on the night. She also led the defensive unit with 14 digs and was one of three Cardinals to finish in double digit digs. Niesen has once again exceeded the 1,000-assist mark for the season and is the MEC’s leader in assists per set with 11.63 this season.
As the race to host the 2022 MEC Volleyball tournament comes down to the wire, there are two front runners to host the event. Wheeling and the University of Charleston are the two teams leading the MEC with identical 12-1 conference records heading into Friday night’s match. However, Charleston does have the tiebreaker over Wheeling at this point, having won the matchup between the two teams 3-0 earlier this season. Wheeling would have to win out and have Charleston lose one of their remaining three conference matches, in order to bring the MEC tournament back to the Alma Grace McDonough Center.
Notre Dame College: The Cardinals and Falcons are meeting for the 21st time in program history, with Wheeling winning each of the first 20 meetings. The Cardinals lost their first set against Notre Dame College since the 2019 season last time but look to defend their perfect record against the Falcons on their home court. In that last meeting, Wheeling would defeat Notre Dame College 3-1 after falling in set one and battling back for the win. Tylah Yeomans led the way in that meeting with 19 kills while Lexi Smith and Allonda Watkins each added 11 kills in the win.
Bluefield State: The Cardinals and Bulldogs are meeting for the 11th time in program history, with Wheeling winning each of the first 10 matches. However, this will be the first meeting between the two teams since the 2012 season when both teams were a part of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC). In that last meeting, Wheeling won 3-0 and has never lost a set to the Bulldogs. In that previous matchup, former Cardinal Rachel Gambow led the way with 15 kills for the offense while former Cardinal Gabby Guanciale led the way with nine digs.
Tip-off for the opening match of the week is scheduled for 7 PM against Notre Dame College inside the Alma Grace McDonough Center. You can watch the match live by clicking HERE or follow along with Live Stats by clicking HERE.
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