In a rather surprising outcome, the Rams (23-7) were swept in their opening matchup of the Mountain East Conference Tournament Thursday afternoon, Nov. 16, by 25-15, 25-21, and 25-21 scores against the West Liberty Hilltoppers (19-13).
The Rams had been coming off of six straight wins to conclude the regular season, and appeared poised for a deeper run with a record of 23-6.
In a stark contrast from the win streak, the Rams offense was unable to consistently find points at times during Thursdays match.
The Shepherd offense finished with a total of 43 points compared to 57 from West Liberty, as the 10 team blocks from the Hilltoppers played a prominent role in the win.
For the game, Rams sophomore setter, Jessica Karcz had a game-high 33 of the Rams 35 total assists. Rams sophomore libero Imani Major added a team-high 15 digs and two assists for the Rams in the losing effort. Senior middle hitter Christine Jackson and senior outside hitter Amanda Snowden tied for the team lead with nine kills each. As a team, the Rams had 37 kills on the afternoon.
The Rams’ 2017 season may be over, but it was not without marked improvement from the year before. Last season the Rams were 12-20, and not many can say they had Shepherd pegged for 23 wins, the most by a Rams team since 29 wins back in the 2002 season.
The 23-win season also marks the first time since 2009 where a Rams team won more than 20 games.
This season also saw the Rams tie the 2009 squad for the best home record in school history as a part of the Mountain East Conference (MEC), as the team finished with a 9-3 record. The total conference record of 11-4 is another best since the Rams entered the MEC.
The key performers for West Liberty were familiar faces for Hilltoppers’ fans, as junior outside hitter Raimey Benson had a game high 15 kills and three blocks. Standout senior Sydney Scherer, a middle blocker, also added eight kills, five blocks, and one ace.
West Liberty and Shepherd both won on each other’s home floor in the two matchups during the regular season, but ultimately the Hilltoppers got the best of the Rams Wednesday afternoon.
Vaughn Brewer is a Sports Writer for The Picket. He can be reached at email@example.com