Women’s Volleyball Caps Off A Notable Regular Season

Photo provided by Steve Woltmann: Head coach Lorelee Smith has led her Lady Flyers to the NCAA Midwest Regional Tournament all seven seasons of her tenure.

Nicole Kappelman, Assistant Sports Editor

The Lewis University women’s volleyball team capped off the regular season on Nov. 16 with a record of 23-8 and 16-2 in Great Lakes Valley Conference play.

“I’m extremely proud of this team,” head coach Lorelee Smith said. “They took a year where everyone thought we would be down due to graduating five starters and losing our All-American libero, and made a statement.”

Ending regular season play against McKendree University first, the Flyers won the game three matches to two. Notable players for Lewis were sophomore outside hitter Cassidy Parsons, redshirt sophomore outside hitter Alexis Davito and junior setter Leigh Barea. Parsons collected 21 kills and 11 digs, while Davito totaled 20 kills and four blocks. Barea had a season-high 59 assists and 17 digs.

“Winning the last match of the regular season was an amazing feeling,” Barea said. “We knew were facing a McKendree team who was in a must win situation for their season to continue. We were playing for the right to host and win the conference outright which motivated us the entire match. It was a great feeling to have a career high assists and I wouldn’t have done it without my team.”

“In the last weekend we had to win out and a couple teams had to lose for us to finish first,” Smith said. “Both our matches went the full five sets and I couldn’t have been prouder.  Other team’s folded under that pressure and this team fought and rose to the occasion.”

With the win, the Flyers earned the top seed in the East Division Conference title, where the GLVC Championship Tournament was hosted at Lewis in the Neil Carey Arena Nov. 22-24.

The team took on eighth seed University of Missouri-St. Louis Friday, Nov. 22.  Davito collected 11 kills and Barea tallied 31 assists, nine digs, six blocks and two block assists in the 3-0 sweep against UMSL.

“The first match against UMSL was a great win for us,” Barea said. “Of course we needed to win to continue on in the tournament, but it was an extremely important win for us when it came to regional rankings. Plus, winning at home in front of all those fans was one of the greatest feelings.”

Trying to carry the momentum into the second day of the tournament, the Flyers competed against Truman State on Saturday, Nov. 23 for the semi-final match.  Unfortunately, the women’s team lost to the No. 24 ranked Bulldogs in five matches, ending the Flyers’ tournament play.

“The [Truman] loss was one of the toughest losses to swallow, but was a great match when you look back on it,” Barea said.  “We are using the loss to feed us to win regionals.  Truman exposed some weaknesses that we get to fix before regionals.  We have little focuses that are giving us the drive to work hard and beat Ferris State in the first round.”

Regardless of the outcome of the GLVC Conference Tournament, the team is already looking toward the future, as they have earned their eighth-straight appearance in the NCAA Regional Tournament.

What has been most notable on the season thus far, though, is the announcement of redshirt junior outside hitter Kim Vertin becoming the 2013 GLVC Women’s Volleyball Player of the Year. Rightfully deserved, the outside hitter has averaged 3.97 kills-per-set this season and has earned herself the No. 24 spot in country for the national rankings.

“I was surprised about the player of the year award, but am extremely happy and proud of myself,” Vertin said. “I know I’ve worked hard to achieve this award, but never did I think I would be the conference’s player of the year. I was just extremely grateful to be recognized. And it also makes me feel extremely grateful for my teammates who push me in each and every practice and have helped me succeed in games.”

Vertin was also named to the All-GLVC First Team, becoming the third player under Smith to earn such high honors.

“Kim really deserves it,” Smith said. “She honestly deserves even more recognition. She has developed into an amazing offensive and defensive player. As a coach, knowing you have the best player in the conference on your team is a huge boost.”

Vertin will lead her team to the first game of the regional tournament on Thursday, Dec. 5 against the No. 2 ranked Ferris State Bulldogs.

Nicole Kappleman is the sports editor for the Flyer.

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