Raiders building winner in volleyball with help of sophomore pair

Allie Matters was happy to find she’d be inheriting a recruiting class that included Jenna Story and Lainey Stephenson after becoming the Wright State volleyball coach 21 months ago. But that didn’t mean Matters could bank on the duo sticking with their commitment.

The two stars from rival AAU clubs in Kentucky were sold on the Raiders by the previous staff, and the new coach had to get them to buy into her vision for the program.

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“Just being an assistant at Seton Hall, I was already familiar with Jenna and Lainey — very much so. I recruited other people from their teams. I was familiar with their high schools,” Matters said.

“It was nice to be able to say, ‘Hey, I watched you play at AAUs your senior year.’ There was a lot we had in common. I spoke at length with them, and we connected very early in the process.”

Matters’ ability to click with the two certainly is paying off this season. The sophomores are part of a talented core for the 11-1 Raiders, who are off to their best 12-game start since the program was launched in 1973.

Story won her third league defensive player of the week award this month after leading Wright State to a three-game sweep at the Ball State tourney last weekend. She set a single-game program record for digs with 39 en route to being named tourney MVP.

“Jenna is playing with such a level of consistency that we always know what we’ll get from her. The cliché that defense wins championships didn’t come up out of nowhere. She’s been absolutely spectacular,” Matters said.

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Stephenson, a setter, has made a pair of all-tourney teams while also earning a league offensive player of the week honor.

Senior hitter Taylor Gibson was the MVP of the Xavier Invitational. Junior hitter Celia Powers was the MVP of the Wright State Invitational. And junior hitter Teddie Sauer has made three all-tourney teams.

“That’s what’s making us so good,” Matters said. “We have so much contributions from so many different positions.”

Sauers is first in the league in aces (.45 per set) and fourth in points (3.85).

Story leads the league in digs (6.43), while Stephenson is third in assists (9.77), junior hitter Nyssa Baker fourth in blocks (1.22) and Powers sixth in kills (3.16).

The Raiders are playing like a legit league contender and might even be exceeding Matters’ expectations.

“It’s one of those things where I say, ‘Wow, how long can we keep this thing going?’ It becomes an addiction where there’s a sense that no (opponent) deserves to break this streak,” she said.

The Raiders start league play at home against Oakland at 6 p.m. Friday and Youngstown State at 4 p.m. Saturday. And Matters is guarding against overconfidence.

“You really have to stay humble and hungry. Yeah, you did accomplish what you accomplished, but the Horizon League is a whole different animal,” she said.

MEN'S SOCCER: The Raiders (5-2) allowed eight goals during a 1-2 start but have given up just two while winning their last four matches. They host Northern Kentucky at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Senior Jackson Dietrich was named the league offensive player of the week Monday after tallying a goal and assist in a 4-1 win over Milwaukee.

Senior goal-keeper Joel Sundell was named the league defensive player of the week Sept. 16 after posting shutouts against Cincinnati and Saint Francis.

WOMEN'S CROSS COUNTRY: Junior Shelby Nolan was named the league runner of the week for the second time this month after finishing second in a five-team meet at Purdue Fort Wayne.

The Raiders won handily with five top-10 finishers.

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