When Western's Kelsey Veltman went down with an injury two weeks ago, Danielle Grasman assumed the middle position for the Mustangs. During this time, the team went 1–1.
But after missing the last two games due to a left knee injury, Veltman made her return to the court felt on Friday night, providing energy to help her team win their last home game of the calendar year.
Now, Western’s record – when Veltman is completely healthy – is perfect: 5–0.
Two weeks ago, Veltman only made it through the second set in the matchup against Queen’s. This time, it was the start of the second set where she made her return to the court.
Western defeated Brock in four sets (25-14, 21-25, 25-16, 25-22). Their only set loss – the second set – was where Veltman showed some rust. She committed three errors in the frame, two of which were service errors. But it was late in that second set when things appeared to be changing. Trailing 22–15, Veltman contributed on two team blocks that rallied her team. Despite losing the set, it appeared that the momentum was shifting over to her and the Mustangs.
In the third set, with both teams tied at 13, the Mustangs used a 7–1 run en route to take control of the set. During this run, Veltman scored three kills.
“I think it showed that [Veltman] was a little bit shaky, but it was good that she gained confidence as well through the end of the match,” Mustangs head coach Melissa Bartlett said after the match.
The head coach highlighted Veltman’s importance to the team when not touching the ball.
“Aside from scoring points, [she does] a lot of things ... other than scoring points – she detracts attention from other attackers so she’s extremely important," Bartlett said. "She’s a great energy player as well, so she brings a lot to the team other than just the points she scores.”
Veltman credited her trainer and the physiotherapy she received while hurt. The second-year player thought returning to action helped her mentally as well.
“We know Brock is ranked a little lower than us, [so] it was a good confidence booster to start," Veltman said.
Aja Gyimah, right side hitter for the Mustangs, talked about her teammate returning to the front side of their attack line.
“It was a big deal to have [Veltman] back. Just walking with her in the front court is really great, and she just brings the entire team’s energy up, and we all play better.”
In her return, Veltman finished with eight kills and two blocks.
Like Veltman, Gyimah’s performance had room for improvement, as least in her eyes.
“I think I played all right," Gyimah said. "I just want to become a smarter player on the court and I think I’m getting there slowly.”
Gyimah led her team with 12 kills while adding eight digs. Serena Smith, fifth-year player and Mustangs captain, led Western with 12 digs.
The Badgers, entering the game with a record of 1–7, were two points from forcing a fifth set. Trailing 20–12 in the fourth, the Badgers rallied to bring the score to 24–22. Then, Katherine Tsiofas, starting setter for the Mustangs, recorded the game clinching kill off a pass from libero Courtney Sestric to end the game.
The effort brought forth by the young Badgers team made their head coach, Dale Ann Melnick, proud after the loss.
“Western’s one of the contenders for OUA Championships this year, and I think we proved match after match that we are here to contend so it’s only a matter of time for us,” Melnick said.
Karlinna O’Leary led the Badgers with seven digs.
The close result was not exactly ideal for Bartlett. She recognized the inconsistency in her team’s play throughout this season.
“All season, it’s been about consistency and being able to execute at our level regardless of who we’re playing. And I think that showed a little bit tonight, and that was one of our weak points,” said Bartlett.
Gyimah echoed the sentiments of her coach.
“[We need to] stay level and maintain our momentum on the court. Because we are a team that plays to the ability of the other team unfortunately, so we’re just going to try to play to our level all the time, throughout the game.”
Western defeated the Windsor Lancers in four sets on Saturday night to finish off the first half of their season with a 7–2 record.