After eight matches and three tournaments away from home, the West Virginia volleyball team will finally travel back to Morgantown to host the Mountaineer Invitational on Thursday and Friday at the WVU Coliseum.
The Mountaineers (8-0) have started this season on an eight-game winning streak and are looking to extend that in their first three home matches of 2021.
WVU will begin the tournament on Thursday against the George Washington Colonials at 12:30 p.m. and then face off against the UMBC Retrievers at 5 p.m.
The Mountaineers will finish off the tournament against the No. 18 Penn State Nittany Lions at 7 p.m. on Friday, which is a marquee matchup for WVU moving forward.
West Virginia has jumped out to this winning streak to start the season due to great contributions from its seniors, middle blocker Briana Lynch and outside hitter Natali Petrova.
Lynch has been dominant all season, recording 116.5 points with 92 kills on a 46 percent hitting percentage and 43 blocks, leading the Mountaineers in all three categories.
Petrova has burst on to the scene recently, but has performed well all season, accounting for 101.5 points on 81 kills at a 23 percent hitting percentage.
Other Mountaineers who have been essential to the team’s success is senior setter Lacey Zerwas, who has passed the ball well all season, recording 284 assists so far.
Defensively, senior defensive specialist Alexa Hasting has also added 126 digs.
For WVU’s first match, it will face off against George Washington (0-8), who is coming off a loss to Maryland Eastern Shore and looking to turn around its eight-game skid.
For the Colonials, their young offensive leader is freshman outside hitter Salem Yohannes, who has recorded a team high 83 kills on a 13 percent hitting percentage.
Other contributors are senior setter Lauren LaBeck who has amassed 168 assists and senior libero Bella Bowman with 124 digs and eight service aces.
Defensively, senior middle blocker Melody Williams leads the way with 19 blocks.
For the Mountaineers’ second match, they face UMBC (3-8), who is coming off a loss to Maryland in a sweep.
For the Retrievers, freshman outside hitter Mia Bilusic is their leading scorer, recording 108.5 points with 89 kills at a 10 percent hitting percentage, seven service aces and 61 digs.
Sophomore libero Aysia Miller has also been a great passer for UMBC, amassing 249 assists to lead the team.
Defensively, they find production from graduate student libero Loren Teter and sophomore middle blocker Beste Ayhan who have 186 digs and 45 blocks, respectively.
For the final match of the Mountaineer Invitational, West Virginia will face its second ranked opponent of the season, No. 18 Penn State (5-3), who is entering Morgantown after a loss to No. 14 Stanford.
Penn State has stayed up in the rankings due to the performance of its upperclassmen, which includes star senior right-side hitter Jonni Parker.
Parker has scored 124.5 points with 104 kills on a 33 percent hitting percentage and 29 blocks on defense.
Other essential players for the Nittany Lions are senior setter Gabby Blossom who has 280 assists so far this season, as well as senior defensive specialist Jenna Hampton who has 97 digs.
Another key contributor for Penn State’s defense, is senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Hord, who has a team high 50 blocks as well.