MARION, Ind. -- Grace (Ind.) College had few answers for a surging Indiana Wesleyan University volleyball team Wednesday night as IWU pulled out a crucial 3-1 victory over the visitors in Luckey Arena.
No. 18-ranked Indiana Wesleyan and Grace entered Wednesday night tied for second place in the Mid-Central College Conference with 8-2 records. IWU looked to avenge an earlier 3-0 defeat in Winona Lake on September 7 and did just that by scores of 25-19, 25-14, 21-25, 25-15.
That early conference loss to Grace (20-8) dropped the Wildcats to 6-3 on the season. But IWU is a different team since that match and have now won 14 of their last 15 matches, including wins over three top-25 programs.
"I thought we played brilliantly," said Indiana Wesleyan head coach Candace Moats. "We put together a plan and they just came back and executed it. I was really proud of them."
Defensively, Indiana Wesleyan put together a strategy to stop the top three Grace attackers.
"I knew there were three players we needed to stop and we basically held each of them to either a negative hitting percentage or a very low hitting percentage," said Moats. "So we definitely stopped their hitters. They were unable to run their offense the way they wanted to."
Indiana Wesleyan did little wrong in opening up a 2-0 lead against Grace, a team receiving votes in the NAIA Top25 Poll.
"The first two games, we executed perfectly," added Moats. "I would say the first two games were perfect. Everything we wanted to do, we did. We blocked well, hit well, tipped when we were supposed to. We were just smarter."
But the Wildcats slipped in game three and were unable to close out a three game victory.
"There was a mental lapse in the match where we let game three go on a run and we weren't sure what went on there," Moats said. "I talked to the girls about it and they didn't really know either. Then everyone got out of it and then there was an explosion at the end of game four. We just put it away."
The victory over the Lancers puts the Wildcats all alone in second place in the MCC with a 9-2 record. The Lancers drop to third place with an 8-3 mark.
"It was encouraging to see them be ready to go out and be confident," continued Moats. "I was really excited to see the maturity of the team and what they're going after. They're seeing it and going after it. Tonight we did our job. We'll just learn from that lull and try to clean it up."
Sophomore middle hitter Kristine Egebrecht was excellent for the Wildcats with a match-high 15 kills with a .520 hitting percentage. Senior middle hitter Peyton Thompson added 13 kills and senior outside hitter Kate Denlinger finished with 10. Junior setter Yui Iwase ended the night with 41 assists.
The Wildcats were active defensively on the net with 18 team blocks. Denlinger had three solo and three assists while senior middle hitter Lauryn Barfell contributed two solo and six block assists.
Indiana Wesleyan (20-4) quickly returns to action at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 14 when IWU hosts Mount Vernon Nazarene (Ohio) University in Luckey Arena.