Wright State volleyball team wins league, hosts tourney

Wright State's Nyssa Baker goes up for a kill against Green Bay on March 22, 2021. Joseph Craven/Wright State Athletics
Wright State's Nyssa Baker goes up for a kill against Green Bay on March 22, 2021. Joseph Craven/Wright State Athletics

FAIRBORN — For Wright State volleyball coach Allie Matters, working with senior star Nyssa Baker has been a joy and a challenge.

Matters has a never-met-a-stranger personality, while Baker, who transferred into the program from NAIA Indiana-Kokomo in 2019, is much more reserved.

“Nyssa is silent but deadly. She’s just very quiet. She doesn’t raise her voice often. And with masks, forget it. I can barely hear. I go, ‘Do you know sign language? Because that would be very helpful right now,’” Matters said with a laugh.

“Nyssa is a wonderful person, a great teammate. She’s really been showing up big in big-time matches. I’m so happy to have her. She’s having a great year.”

So is Wright State — thanks in no small part to Matters, who was named the Horizon League co-coach of the year Friday.

After taking over in 2018, she led the Raiders to their first appearance in the six-team league tourney in 12 years.

In 2019, they won their first regular-season title and then became repeat champions for 2020 (though the season is being played this winter-spring because of the coronavirus delay). They swept two matches against Green Bay on Monday to finish 14-0 and clinch the title.

Allie Matters, Wright State volleyball coach
Allie Matters, Wright State volleyball coach

Credit: Chris Snyder

Credit: Chris Snyder

They’ll host the conference tourney again as the No. 1 seed, facing fourth-seeded Purdue Fort Wayne at 1 p.m. Sunday, while No. 2 UIC meets No. 3 Northern Kentucky at 2 p.m. in McLin Gym.

The tourney has been trimmed to four teams because of COVID-19, and the highest remaining seed will host the championship at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 3.

Though they earned an NCAA tourney berth in 2019 because of their body of work — the first HL team do that since Milwaukee in 2000 — the Raiders still have some painful memories from their last crack at a league tourney title.

Playing before their home fans (who won’t be allowed to attend this year), they dropped a 3-1 decision to Northern Kentucky in the semifinals.

“We had so much hype going into the conference tournament,” Matters said. “How do we prevent (what happened) last season and not repeat history?

“Watching our men’s basketball team and what they went through, I think it’s tough.”

Coach Scott Nagy’s team dominated the league but was shocked at home in the quarterfinals by eighth-seeded Milwaukee, which overcame a 24-point deficit in the final 6:15.

“You play at a consistent level, and you have one bad match or one bad weekend, and everything you’ve worked for falls apart,” Matters said. “What happened to us last year has kept us humble and moving forward. What are we going to do with (a new opportunity)? It’s up to us.”

The Raiders (14-1 overall) seem to be much more equipped to handle the pressure this year. They returned almost their entire team, and experience usually matters.

Baker leads the league in blocks with 1.4 per set. Junior Jenna Story is first in digs with an average of 6.12.

Junior Lainey Stephenson is third in assists (9.33).

“Jenna and Lainey — those two have been at the core of our success,” Matters said.

Story was named league defender of the year for the second straight season Friday, while Stephenson was named setter of the year.

They were joined on the all-conference first team by seniors Teddie Sauer and Celia Powers.

The Raiders became the first team to go undefeated in the league since Milwaukee went 16-0 in 2011.

But since joining the conference in 1994, they haven’t won a tourney title or even had a runner-up finish.

“This group of women has a chance to do something great that hasn’t been done. They can either go into the finals and be all jittery and worry about something that hasn’t happened yet or they can seize the moment and win a championship,” Matters said.

“I hope that’s us. That’s what I envision, and I know the team does, too.”

Baseball: The Raiders, who started 0-5, took a 12-game conference winning streak into their weekend series at Youngstown State, their longest in program history.

The team record for consecutive wins overall is 18 in 1989. The 2012 team had the second-longest streak with 14 in a row.

Quincy Hamilton, a junior from Centerville, was named HL batter of the week for the second time this season after notching two home runs and nine RBIs in a four-game sweep at UIC last weekend.

He’s tied for the league lead in homers with six and RBIs with 22.

Teammate Tyler Black is a candidate for the HL triple crown. He also has six HRs and 22 RBIs and has a league-best .410 batting average.

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