Wade Steinlage, Assistant Athletic Director for Communications
OSKALOOSA – The William Penn men’s volleyball team hit the court for the first time ever Tuesday and enjoyed the experience so much it played a full five sets before eventually to succumbing to Heart of America Athletic Conference foe Clarke, 3-2.
WPU (0-1, 0-1 Heart), which lost by scores of 25-22, 22-25, 25-17, 20-25, 13-15, was narrowly outhit .026-.017.
In front of a crowd of more than 600 fans who had eagerly anticipated the start of the school’s newest sport, the navy and gold, whose roster features 13 freshmen and two sophomores, battled through a tough night at the service line to nearly take the inaugural match. The Pride (1-1, 1-0 Heart) also struggled putting the ball in play as the sides combined for 51 service errors, including 29 for CU and 22 for WPU.
Action was tight throughout with the hosts grabbing the first set. The first point of the program’s existence came via a hitting mistake by Clarke, but William Penn took a bit to pull away. There were eight ties and four lead changes in the opening set, but tied at 9-9, the Statesmen rattled off three consecutive points and never trailed again.
The visitors began the second set with three points in a row, but WPU answered and knotted the score four times. Unfortunately, four unanswered tallies put CU in control to make the match 1-1.
William Penn started slowly in the third round as well, trailing 8-6, but found some footing and pulled away with four straight for an 18-14 edge. The Pride would come no closer and the home squad grabbed the most-lopsided victory of the match for a 2-1 edge.
WPU was on the verge of delivering the knockout blow with a 19-16 lead in the fourth go-round, but the tides turned abruptly as Clarke scored eight straight and forced a fifth and deciding set.
The Pride were on top for much of the final set, though the Statesmen refused to go quietly. Facing a 12-9 deficit, William Penn drew to within one point on three occasions, but could not get over the hump in losing its inaugural bout.
Ike Papes (Fr., Elwood, Ill., Sports Management) almost single-handedly guided his team to victory, leading all players with 15 kills.
Carlos Garcia (Fr., Laredo, Texas, Biology) was next in kills with eight, while Eli Herro (Fr., Dousman, Wis., Business Management) had the most efficient outing with six kills on a .429 clip, while posting three solo blocks and one block assist. The freshman also paced WPU in serving with two aces.
CJ Rettig (Fr., Sierra Madre, Calif., Wellness and Recreation) matched Herro with six winners.
Matt Helmick (Fr., Fullerton, Calif., Business Management) ran the offense well from the setter position, nearly managing a double-double with 31 assists and nine digs. Chris Freire (Fr., San Antonio, Texas, Biology) headlined the defensive effort with 12 digs as well.
“I am incredibly proud of our team tonight,” Head Coach Luke Bentley said. “We took the floor having never played in a collegiate match and battled against a team that has some strong experience and a talented senior class. I cannot really ask for much more in our first match.”
Next Up: William Penn travels to Canton, Mo. Thursday to face Culver-Stockton in Heart play at 7 p.m.
FIRSTS FROM THE FIRST MATCH IN PROGRAM HISTORY
First attack–Ike Papes
First kill–Eli Herro
First attack error–Ike Papes
First serve–Matt Helmick
First ace–Eli Herro
First service error–Matt Helmick
First serve reception–CJ Rettig
First serve reception error–CJ Rettig
First dig–Ike Papes
First block–Eli Herro
First block error–Matt Helmick
First assist–Matt Helmick
First ball-handling error–Shawn Mason
First player introduced–Carlos Garcia
First backflip in pre-match team huddle–Andrew Padilla
First play–7:11 PM
First timeout–2nd set (Clarke leading 12-10)
First time floor needed to be wiped up–1st set (WPU leading 23-21, done by Kayla Music)