By Dean Hockney
Publisher, Sports Journal of Central Indiana
For Indiana University Kokomo
KOKOMO, Ind. – Slows starts kill teams and drive coaches mad. To say the Indiana Univeristy Kokomo volleyball team started slow against a powerful Vincennes University squad is an understatement as the visiting Trailblazers jumped to a 12-1 lead in the first set and cruised to a 25-17, 25-23, 25-10 win Tuesday night. But after the game, the Cougars coach said she saw some positive play while using this contest as a waypoint in how the program has progressed in 12 months.
"Last year against them we scored 12 points in all three games," said second-year Lady Cougar head coach Kristen Snoddy. "As far as the Cougars go, I knew there was a marked difference from last year, and this allowed us to see where we are as a program. So it was a test to see how much we have grown since last year – and clearly we have."
Kokomo came out of the blocks sluggish, losing the first three points before Heather Tolson (Frankfort/Frankfort H.S.) found a hole in the Vincennes defense for a kill. The next nine points belonged to the Trailblazers as Lauren Bratcher and Tiffany Madura dominated the nets while IUK hurt itself with three unforced errors.
The Cougars did not give up despite the start, scoring 10 of the next 16 points as Tolson added three more kills, Shelby Spall (Kokomo/Western H.S.) added an ace and Megan Riley (New Palestine/New Palestine H.S.) added a block and a kill to close the gap to 18-12. But six points was as close as they would get as Vincennes won the set.
"I think we need to go to the net more often and we struggled with passing," said Snoddy. "When we get better passes we can control the ball better."
Despite another slow start in the second set that saw the Lady Cougars trail 4-0, the home squad ratcheted up its play and forced the first tie of the night at 9-9 thanks to a big kill from Spall. Back-to-back kills from Miranda Hammons (Indianapolis/North Adams-Jerome H.S [Ancilla College]) tied the game again at 12.
The Cougars took its first lead of the night at 13-12 on a block at the net by Riley. IUK tied the set again at 14 on a Hammons kill and retook the lead 15-14 on another Riley block. After a nice volley, a long hit by Kokomo gave Vincennes a 16-15 lead – a lead that would not change hands again. Kokomo did rally late on a Spall kill and Riley block, cutting the lead to 24-23, but Kayla Macadlo flew to the net to record the set winning kill.
"Oh, we were right there," said Snoddy. "I know we have some things to work on and we will look at the tape to see where we need to make those improvements so we can win sets like (the second) one. I thought Megan Riley and Rachel Allen (Lizton/Tri-West H.S.) had some big hits, and Cortney Hanson (Logansport/Pioneer H.S.) and Lael Burrus (Denver/North Miami H.S.) played the ball well."
A third slow start for Kokomo spelled doom for the night as Vincennes soared to 7-1 and 11-3 leads before cruising to the 15-point set win. Snoddy noted the play of the Lady Cougars in the third set, saying, "We didn't work together, and unfortunately we quit playing."
The Lady Cougars return to action with a road trip at Franklin College on Sep. 29. IU Kokomo returns home to play Anderson University on Oct. 2, with a 7 p.m. start time at Maple Crest Middle School (located across the street from the IUK campus). The match is Breast Cancer Awareness Night and fans are encouraged to wear pink. The first 100 fans will receive a free IUK volleyball pink T-shirt.
(Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana)