Waynesburg Volleyball falls to Westminster in final match of 2021 season

Coach Emily Taylor and senior Alyson Johnson reflect on the season

Waynesburg University

By: Austin Bechtold

For The Yellow Jacket

The Waynesburg University volleyball team showed flashes of what could be yet to come from a young program on the rise, but also remembered those that paved the way the past four seasons Thursday night hosting Westminster. 

Waynesburg (9-19, 3-15) fell to Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) regular-season champion Westminster College (25-4, 17-0) in three sets, but battled throughout the match and showed positive signs for the future. 

The Yellow Jackets lost 16-25, 8-25, and 22-25 in a match closer than the scoreboard may indicate. 

Head coach Emily Taylor’s team started out playing at a similar pace as the Titans, capitalizing off of Westminster mistakes halfway through the first set. The beginning of the match resulted in nine ties and five lead changes before Westminster ultimately pulled away in the final 15 points.

“I’m proud of them,” Taylor said. “They wanted to go out playing one last game for our seniors and give it everything we got.” 

The second set was a mirage of the good play Waynesburg displayed earlier in the night, consistently recording hitting and passing errors while struggling on serve receive as well. 

Going into the final set, the Yellow Jackets put the previous loss in the rearview mirror and battled the Titans to the very end. Waynesburg relied on not making mistakes and forcing Westminster to make critical errors, which paid off until the very end. 

Tied 21-21, Westminster proved why they have earned an undefeated record in conference play, shutting the door on a potential spoil attempt from Waynesburg.

Despite the loss, Taylor saw positive signs in her team late in the match. 

“I think we struggled in that second set, but in the third set they turned it around and they truly gave it their all and I think that’s the best way we could have ended this season,” Taylor said. “…it sets the tone for us to work even harder next year.”

The match marked the final game of the season for senior right side hitter Mya Brooks, outside hitter Hannah Buhr, outside hitter Camryn Shaffer, and libero Alyson Johnson. 

Johnson has been a consistent heartbeat for the program since her sophomore season, registering 1,000 career digs against W&J, 581 digs on the season, and 1,322 for her career. 

Taylor raved about Johnson’s leadership on the floor and the impact she has made throughout the volleyball landscape. 

“I think it went the best that it can be. She’s the number one libero in the PAC leading in total digs and digs per set. Fun fact, she is currently second in all of Division Three in digs per set,” Taylor said.

“I think she left the best legacy possible on the floor today and she was a great example of what it meant to work hard on the court, in the classroom, what it meant to lead by example, speak up when times got tough…. We’re really going to miss her next year.”

Johnson has enjoyed her time as a Yellow Jacket and learned not to take anything for granted, watching the time fly by in the blink of an eye.

“Its meant everything,” Johnson said. “When I first came in as a freshman, I was like ‘oh I have forever to play sports this is going to be so fun,’ but as it dwindled down this season I was just trying to cherish every moment that I have. I’m grateful and blessed for everything that has happened this season.” 

The 5’4” libero hugged her teammates and looked around the gym to reflect on her final game, happy with how the team performed despite the result.

“We started out really strong and I was really proud of us coming out and battling point for point but then we took a dip,” Johnson said. “I was still proud of us even though we lost. We still came out in the third set and gave everything we had.”

Five freshmen played significantly for Waynesburg throughout the match as Makayla Osborn, Emma Hyatt, Madisen Dayton, Jordan Stein, and Paige Cousley signal the next generation of Yellow Jackets set to bring the program to a new level. 

“I think it truly speaks to the future of this team and what I’m trying to do here,” Taylor said. “I’m super proud of all of them. They bought in to our team culture. They wanted to work and that’s why they were out there.”

As Johnson moves on from the team and puts her leadership position in new hands, she hopes to have left a lasting legacy on the program, her teammates, and young players everywhere. 

“Always leaving everything out there and being a good teammate regardless of what my individual accomplishments were,” Johnson said. “I want little girls to come in and keep trying their best to never give up when they start young and come to college and pursue a career in volleyball.”

After a covid-affected spring season earlier this year and multiple new faces to the program in her second season as coach, Taylor is prepared for a more prominent run of successful volleyball in 2022.

“I think they can look forward to a couple more wins next year,” Taylor said. “There’s no hiding that I’m a young coach and I’m still figuring it out, but our team is also figuring it out and expect good things to come from our team. We’re going to make the university proud.”