It was almost fitting the way IPFW libero Tessa McGill reached a career milestone Monday.
Late in a close first game, McGill in the back-row came up with a clutch dig on a Western Illinois kill attempt. Just like she had done 1,999 previous times during her four-year college career, the senior made a play on defense to keep the volley alive and give the Mastodons' offense another chance at the point.
The dig would eventually help lead to IPFW beating Western Illinois in overtime in the opening game of their conference match at the Gates Center. It would also make McGill the second player in school history to reach 2,000 career digs.
"It feels good, I can't lie," McGill said. "But all I want to do is win. Stats are stats."
McGill finished with a match-high 24 digs as IPFW defeated Western Illinois 27-25, 18-25, 25-15, 25-22 to remain in sole possession of first place in the Summit League.
Now at 2,014 career digs, McGill only trails Peachy Jankowski's 2,253 digs for the most career digs in IPFW history. The senior is in the Summit League's top five for career digs and is 53 digs away from tying former IUPUI libero Erin Jones for fourth place.
Coach Kelley Hartley Hutton also said McGill getting 2,000 career dig is even more impressive given that she did not become IPFW's starting libero until her sophomore year.
"It's quite an accomplishment," Hutton said. "I'm just happy for Tessa because she's worked really hard."
McGill in addition to achieving a career milestone against Western Illinois was able to maintain her 6.01 digs per game average. The senior entered the match ranked fifth in the nation in digs per game average and was one of 11 players in the country with more than 400 digs this season.
Along with McGill's defensive performance, IPFW out-hit Western Illinois (8-11, 2-6 Summit League) .257 to .216 and had three players finish the match with at least 10 kills.
Outside attacker Emily Spencer had a match-high 20 kills, including a game-high six kills in the fourth game. In addition, outside attacker Haley Emenhiser had 11 kills, while Jessie Manwaring added 10 kills.
The Mastodons (17-3, 7-1 Summit League) with the win extend their winning streak to a season-best eight matches. IPFW, which was nationally No. 56 in the latest RPI released Monday, also increases its first-place lead to one match ahead of second-place IUPUI in the Summit League.
"I want to win my senior year and get this last Summit League championship," McGill said. "That's the only thing that matters to me."
At the half-way point of the Summit League season, Hutton said, IPFW has to make some improvements but she is more than pleased with the team's record. The coach said, though, the remaining eight Summit League regular season matches will be more challenging because their opponents will be more energized to play the first-place team.
"That team comes in with a different sense of what they need to do than we do," Hutton said. "There is a target on our back and they can put it all out there. And even if they have a meaningless season, if they beat the eventually first-place team that would make it be a great season."