GREEN BAY, Wis. (GreenBayPhoenix.com) - After a sluggish start left Green Bay in a hole Saturday afternoon against winless Youngstown State (2-22, 0-11 HL), head coach Debbie Kirch and her team needed a spark. Kirch turned to co-captain Carlie Willison (Greenfield, Wis.), who delivered with 11 kills in her first match since Oct. 2 to lead Green Bay (8-17, 4-7 HL) to a 3-1 (20-25, 25-19, 25-16, 25-17) in Horizon League volleyball action.
Youngstown State jumped out quickly in set one, catching the Phoenix off guard and finishing off the set for the 1-0 lead. Kirch turned to Willison, who has battled injuries throughout the season and missed the previous six matches, and the junior delivered.
"We needed to have a hitter with the maturity to know that sometimes it does not have to be a hard swing that has to get the kill," said Kirch. "We felt like we needed more leadership and communication on the court, and Carlie could provide that. It has been tough for her, but I am really proud of the way that she went out there and gave us leadership, and double-digit kills we will certainly take that."
Junior Abbey Gitter (Hortonville, Wis.) led Green Bay with a game-high 15 kills and freshman Lyndsay Zabkowicz (Oak Creek, Wis.) added 13 to give the Phoenix three players with double-digit kills. After the tough start, Green Bay had 46 kills and just 11 errors in sets two through four, and senior Whitney Schott (Roscoe, Ill.) directed the offense to a .302 hitting percentage with 48 assists.
Willison used an array of attacks to help the Phoenix even the match heading into intermission. The junior had six kills in the set, helping Green Bay to a .364 hitting percentage. Zabkowicz added five kills in set two, and the freshman headed into set three with seven kills and just one error.
With the score tied at 15, a Willison kill started a 10-4 run to end the set. Three kills from Willison and two apiece from Zabkowicz and Gitter helped the Phoenix even the match.
In set three, Green Bay kept the momentum and jumped out to an overwhelming 9-2 lead behind three kills from Gitter. The lead reached 17-6 on a Zabkowicz kill before the Penguins made a small rally. A late kill from Willison put the set away, 25-16.
With the Phoenix leading 13-11 in set four, Willison started a 3-0 run with a kill that was capped by an ace from Kara Lindstedt (Shoreview, Minn.). Back-to-back kills from Schott put Green Bay ahead by five and the hosts never looked back in finishing off their fourth league win of the season.
"I was expecting it to be tough today after a tough match last night. It was a quick turnaround, and I was nervous about how we were going to come out," said Kirch. "Despite a key injury last night, Youngstown State came out fired up and we did not respond well to that in set one, but the positive is that we changed the momentum. We Did we play our best volleyball, probably not, but we took control of the match and that is a sign of maturity."
Sophomore Brittany Groth (Oak Creek, Wis.), the conference leader in digs per set, led the Phoenix defense again with 23 digs on Saturday. Sophomore Carmen Leitermann (Schofield, Wis.) had her 50th career solo block in the match and now ranks fifth all-time in that category.
The Phoenix will play its next four matches away from home, beginning with at Valparaiso on Friday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. Green Bay's final home game will be on Friday, Nov. 12 against UIC.
Green Bay def. Youngstown State 20-25, 25-19, 25-16, 25-17
Youngstown State (2-22, 0-11 HL) (Kills-aces-blocks)
KAPFERER, Haley 11-2-0; SOUBLIERE, Dani 9-1-1; JOHNSON, Nichele 7-0-4; BITTER, Kelsi 7-0-1; GROVE, Brittany 5-0-1; REID, Tasha 5-0-1; D'AMBROSE, Casey 0-3-0; KERN, Brianna 0-1-0; Totals 44-7-5.0. (Assists) - SOUBLIERE, Dani 30. (Dig leaders) - GROVE, Brittany 12; KERN, Brianna 10
Green Bay (8-17, 4-7 HL) (Kills-aces-blocks)
GITTER, Abbey 15-3-2; ZABKOWICZ, Lyndsay 13-0-2; WILLISON, Carlie 11-0-0; MISCHLER, Kelly 7-0-2; SCHOTT, Whitney 5-0-0; LEITERMANN, Carmen 5-0-2; ANDERSON, Monica 1-0-0; LINDSTEDT, Kara 0-1-0; Totals 57-4-5.0. (Assists) - SCHOTT, Whitney 48. (Dig leaders) - GROTH, Brittany 23; SCHOTT, Whitney 7