It would have been hard to deny that the best home-court advantage in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference belongs to Ashland University's volleyball team prior to Friday (Oct. 20) night's match against No. 17-ranked Ferris State.
There's even less denying it after the Eagles won their 22nd consecutive match at Kates Gymnasium, a 25-21, 18-25, 22-25, 25-21, 15-10 decision over the Bulldogs. Ashland improves to 12-9 overall and 5-5 in the GLIAC, moving into a tie for the seventh spot in the overall league standings, while FSU drops to 15-6, 8-2.
"They feel comfortable here," Ashland head coach Cass Dixon said of her Eagles. "We've had a pretty good week of practice, and we really were stressing extending rallies and extending plays. The girls did a really good job of that tonight."
Said junior middle blocker Reanne Neal, "We talk about the record, but we don't want to focus on it too much. We've done a really good job executing at home. It's something exciting about being home with our family watching us and everyone being here to support us."
The Eagles also snapped a four-match losing streak to the Bulldogs, one within which Ashland didn't win a set.
Ashland received plenty of starring performances on Friday night, but the top overall showing came from Neal, who finished the match with 10 kills, four service aces, eight digs, two solo blocks and five block assists.
"Reanne had a fantastic match, not only offensively, but defensively and serving," Dixon said. "She did set the tone for the match."
Sophomore outside hitter Shelby Woycik led the Eagle offense with 19 kills and added a team-high 20 digs on defense. Five Eagles finished with double-digit digs – Woycik, senior defensive specialist Melanie Aguayo (18), freshman libero McKinley Smith (14), freshman outside hitter Zoie Franklin (12) and freshman setter Kali Apelt (10).
Apelt added 44 assists and three block assists in the victory.
In the fifth and deciding set, Ashland out-hit Ferris State, .286-.074.
In 2016, the Eagles went 11-1 in their final 12 regular-season matches, a fact not lost on Dixon or the Eagles.
"We're in the same exact situation as we were last year," she said. "I lay it out on the floor for them every day in big pieces in paper. We call it perspective. It gives you perspective about what's left in the rest of the season."
The Eagles will come back to Kates Gymnasium for a Saturday (Oct. 21) afternoon GLIAC match vs. Northwood (12-9, 4-6). First serve for the second of four straight home contests is at 2 p.m.