VOLLEYBALL: Wildcats Take Commanding Lead In Big Sky After Sweeping Conference Champs
(Photo courtesy of Weber State University)
“It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”
These are the immortal words that William Ernest Henley penned in his famous poem entitled “Invictus.” It’s also the poem that has stirred the Weber State volleyball team to a flawless 8-0 record and served as the squad’s motto for this season.
We saw Weber State personify Henley’s poem this past weekend in Greeley, Colorado, facing the Northern Colorado Bears – a team that beat Weber State in five sets to win the 2019 Big Sky Conference championship and retained their main core of contributors for the 2021 season.
Last Saturday, Weber State stormed into Greeley with a 6-0 record, sitting in first place in the Big Sky. The eyes of the conference turned to Colorado to see the clash of Big Sky titans, and the Wildcats certainly didn’t disappoint in their first match of the road trip. Led by all-conference performers Dani Nay and Ashlyn Power, Weber State won sets one, two and four, en route to a 3-1 victory over the defending champs.
With the strange scheduling of the 2021 spring season and teams playing back-to-back matches against each other, this particular road trip probably could have been considered a success after that first match alone.
Head coach Jeremiah Larsen and company had different plans.
On Sunday, Weber State jumped out to a big 7-2 lead in the first set, but it wouldn’t be sustained. UNC’s experienced squad rallied back and won the first set 25-18, putting Weber State in their first match deficit of the season. How would the Wildcats respond? Well, it wasn’t pretty.
The second set was complete and total domination by the Bears from the start. Their offense was clicking, their defense was formidable, and in the second set they reminded everyone why they won the 2019 conference championship by demolishing Weber State, 25-13.
The team was on the road, playing the champs and had just gone down two games to zero, after a total disaster in the second set. A lesser team might have mailed it in and chalked it up as a moral victory since they were able to split the series. A lesser team might even lose focus and start looking forward to their next opponent.
Not these ladies. This team is different.
Behind the senior leadership of Ashlyn Power, Sam Schiess and Rylin Adams, the third set belonged to the Wildcats, 25-18, and the tides started to turn. The fourth set also went to Weber State by the same score.
To the fifth we went.
Four hundred and forty-nine days prior in the Big Sky Conference championship game, these two teams, with many of the exact same players, faced off and the game went to five sets. The result: 15-13, and UNC took home the conference crown.
Would history repeat itself? Would the Wildcats crumble under the pressure and fatigue of playing back-to-back matches against the champs?
Not this time.
Weber State won, 15-12, completed the weekend sweep of the champions to move to 8-0 on the season, putting them in a commanding two match lead over Montana State and Northern Arizona in the Big Sky standings.
This group is special. You can see it in the way they warm up and hear it in the way they talk, and it manifested itself in the way they won their matches in Colorado. They’ve had dominating wins (see their matches against SUU), and against Northern Colorado we found out that even when their stars aren’t playing their best, even when a contest gets a little ugly and even when this team appears to be down and out, this squad just finds ways to win.
This year’s team is one of the best volleyball teams to ever play at Weber State, and they currently have a few of the best players to ever don the Wildcat purple and white in Power, Nay and Adams. If you haven’t tuned in to Weber State volleyball yet, now is the time, with another tough series against Sacramento State this weekend.
Halfway through the season, this team is undefeated and in first place. They are the masters of their Big Sky fate.