By Jamison Schroeder
The Cleveland State University volleyball team needed a miracle to reach the Horizon League tournament. The Vikings needed to win-out and have Northern Kentucky lose-out in order for them to make the conference tournament. However, it simply wasn’t in the cards for the team.
The Vikings fell short of winning a five-set match against the University of Illinois-Chicago, losing 3-2 in a tough battle. The team started off strong, winning the first two sets of the game. With a 2-0 game lead, all the team needed to do was win one last set. However, they would proceed to lose the next three sets, bringing their Horizon League Tournament hopes to an end.
The team kept their spirits high through the loss and never stopped fighting. Even if the Vikings had won, Northern Kentucky had won their match on Nov. 10, which eliminated the Vikings from the postseason.
In the game against the Flames, freshman Chelsea Penfield managed to pull off a career-high 12 kills in the match. Penfield has basically secured her place on the team next season as she had a very good first season, doing well offensively and defensively. Head coach Chuck Voss was impressed with what he saw from the freshman and is excited for their future.
“Chelsea, along with our other six freshmen on this year’s team have such bright futures ahead of them,” Voss said. “I’m extremely excited to see what else they are capable of throughout their careers.”
On the defensive end, Penfield has managed three or more blocks in six of the seven matches she has played this season. Outside having an impressive showing against Illinois-Chicago, Penfield has been averaging over one kill and one block per set.
Penfield, junior Hannah Greene, and senior Trinniti Hall each had double-digit kills and combined to make up more than half of the kills within the whole team.
The story of the season has been a struggle within the conference, as the team finished 4-12 in it. Cleveland State finished up the season with two more conference foes, Northern Kentucky and Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis.
The Vikings would drop the first of the two games 3-1 to Northern Kentucky. Hall led the way in kills with 17, and Green recorded seven blocks. Junior Emily DeGeorge had a game high of 17 kills, but the team was unable to complete the comeback falling 3-1. Despite the loss, there was good news for the Vikings, as sophomore Christina Grecol moved into seventh place all-time for career assists at 2,052. She would add 48 more assists to finish at an even 2,100 for her career.
The final game of the season was also senior day for Hall, Katie Jorn and Jordan Verbiak. The pair of Hall and Verbiak helped bring Cleveland State two Horizon League titles during their tenure at the university, and they hoped to go out on a high note.
The Vikings were able to pull off a 3-2 win in a thriller. After dropping the first set, Cleveland State would win the next two and only need one more set to win the game. IUPUI would come back to win the fourth set to move into the fifth and deciding set. The Vikings would win that one to win the game 3-2. Hall was able to record 14 kills and 28 digs, and DeGeorge helped the team with 23 kills and 22 digs.
With that 22 dig performance, combined with her 359 digs on the season, DeGeorge moved into 10th place on the all-time digs record list with 1,121 on her career. She now sits 424 short of the school record of 1,545 which was set by Jordan Bateman in 2008.
DeGeorge wasn’t the only Viking to move into the record books after the last game of the season. Greene moved into a tie for 10th all-time for block assists with 275 in her career. Both will have a chance to move up in the ranks as they return for their senior seasons.
The Vikings had an unusually rough season, as this is the first losing season they have had in the last nine years. Within those 10 years, there have been three Horizon League titles, and Voss hopes to get back to those winning ways next season.
“I think the returning players all believe we will be back competing for a championship next year,” Voss said. “Our culture and team chemistry will be as good as any team I have ever coached, and that is something that we as a coaching staff are extremely excited for.”
During those nine seasons, Cleveland State had a combined record of 212-90, seven trips to the Horizon League Championship game, four conference championships and four trips to the NCAA Tournament. Despite the end of an impressive streak, Voss thinks that there is still a lot to be proud of for this team.
“I’m proud of our leadership and work ethic that this team showed on and off the court,” Voss said. “They worked really hard to get better every single day and stayed focused from the beginning of preseason in August until our final matches of the season this weekend.”