BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – Four days after Indiana University Kokomo downed Purdue University Calumet in the Illinois Institute of Technology Kickoff Tournament, the Peregrines traveled to the City of Firsts and returned the favor by downing the Lady Cougars in a five-set volleyball thriller (23-25, 25-14, 15-25, 25-18, 13-15). The loss to a Calumet team that arrived short-handed due to injuries was hard for the Cougars to accept.
“I know the girls are super disappointed because we beat this team in the tournament,” said IU Kokomo head coach Kristen Snoddy. “I don’t know; we have a film of it and we will look at it and start working on the things we can improve on.”
The decisive set saw the home team nearly complete a come-from-behind victory after trailing 8-3, 13-7 and 14-8. A Calumet error followed by a long baseline hit started the momentum in the Cougars favor, cutting the lead to 14-10. Rachael Williams (Kendall, Wis./Royall [Goshen College]) entered to serve for Kokomo, and she helped rally the Cougars thanks to kills by Brittany Nelson (Delphi, Ind./Delphi [Kankakee C.C.]) and Rachel Allen (Lizton, Ind./Tri-West) and a Purdue hit out of bounds. But Calumet’s Jesse Miller (Grove City, Ohio/Grove City) raced to the net on a set and fired off the match-winning kill.
“I thought Rachael Williams came in and did a nice job for us in the last set,” said Snoddy. “I subbed her in because she has pretty good control over her serves. And Brittany came back from injury and was eligible and I thought she played well.”
The return of Nelson to the Cougars lineups meant a small learning curve for the squad, and while not making excuses, Snoddy said both the coaching staff and the team need to learn the new roles that are on the court.
“(Brittany’s return) means we have to get used to new body on the court, and we have to adjust to that,” Snoddy said. “And as coaches, we are learning on where to put everyone now that our team is healthy.”
The Lady Cougars got off to a slow start in all three sets they lost. In the first set, they scored the first point on an ace by freshman Cortney Hanson (Winamac, Ind./Pioneer), only to watch the Peregrines score the next six points and 11 of 13. Kokomo tried to get back in the game. Trailing 11-3, Allen blasted a kill and Calumet had an unforced error to cut the lead to six. Then Megan Riley (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine) bookended a pair of blocks around a pair of Heather Tolson (Frankfort, Ind./Clinton Prairie [Kankakee C.C.]) kills to trim the Calumet advantage to 11-10. But that is as close as the Cougars would get in the 25-23 loss.
In set three, the Cougars trailed 1-0 and 10-5 en route to the 10-point loss. And in the fifth set, Calumet (1-4) scored the first two points and five of the first seven.
“It seemed like this was a match where whoever got off to a quick start took the set,” said Snoddy. “I thought our hitting was a little off tonight. We have some people who have been consistent for us who struggled early.”
Snoddy pointed to a bright spot as she thought her squad maintained a competitive attitude the entire match. She noted that on previous nights, the squad did not respond as well to adversity and may not have been able to make the comeback like they did tonight in the fifth set.
“We have had some trouble getting down on ourselves in matches,” said the second year Lady Cougars coach. “I didn’t feel like we did that tonight. Our play was consistent and our support for each other and our intensity was good.”
The Lady Cougars (1-5) return to action on Aug. 31 and Sep. 1 at St. Xavier University before traveling to Anderson University on Sep. 5. They return home on Sep. 20 for a 7 p.m. contest against Indiana University Northwest at the new home of the Lady Cougars – Maple Crest Middle School (located across from the IU Kokomo campus).