Archive for September 30, 2012

IU KOKOMO VOLLEYBALL EARNS SIXTH WIN OF THE SEASON

COURTESY OF IU KOKOMO

FRANKLIN, Ind. - Indiana University Kokomo women's volleyball went 1-1 Saturday during the Franklin College Tri-match, splitting games against a pair of NCAA Division III programs.  The Cougars lost the first match against Defiance College (Ohio) in three sets (11-25, 17-25, 18-25) and rallied to win the second game against Franklin College in a tough four set re-match (25-22, 18-25, 25-17, 25-20). The Yellow Jackets came into the match 11-8 including their win in the previous game in the Tri-match against tournament host Franklin College.

"Defiance is impressive and we knew we were going to have our hands full," said IU Kokomo head coach Kristen Snoddy. "They have a well-rounded team and overall play very smart."

Leading the Cougars in kills was Shelby Spall (Kokomo/Western H.S.) with 7 and on the defensive end Lael Burrus (Denver/North Miami H.S.) collected 11 digs.  Cortney Hanson (Logansport/Pioneer H.S.) and Heather Tolson (Frankfort/Clinton Prairie H.S. [Kankakee C.C.]) had 10 and 11 assists respectively.

The second game of the day was a re-match against Franklin College who won the first meeting earlier this month in three sets at the Earlham Invitational . The Cougars came out looking to avenge the loss against the Grizzlies and were victorious in four sets.

"This was a really big win against an NCAA Division III program for our young program," said Coach Snoddy.  "We withstood their runs even when they threatened us late in the 4th and final game. Earlier in the season we would not have handled that kind of pressure and I am excited to see what else we can accomplish in the last month and dozen matches we have left."

Spall lead the way with 11 kills, while Miranda Hammons (Indianapolis/North Adams Jerome H.S. [Ancilla College]) and Megan Riley (New Palestine/New Palestine H.S.) chipped in 10 apiece. Hanson dished out 21 assists to her teammates and Burrus led the way defensively with 22 digs.

The Cougars (6-17) return home Tuesday against Anderson University for Breast Cancer Awareness Night.  The match tips off at 7pm at Maple Crest Middle School (located across the street from the IU Kokomo campus).  The first 100 fans will receive a free IU Kokomo volleyball pink T-shirt.

IU KOKOMO FALLS IN THREE SETS TO POWERFUL VINCENNES UNIVERSITY

IU Kokomo junior Miranda Hammons dives for a ball against Vincennes University as (5) Carlee Davis and (3) Cortney Hanson look on. (SJ Photo: Dean Hockney)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

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, Ind./Frankfort) 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, Ind./Western) added an ace and Megan Riley (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine) 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 [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, Ind./Tri-West) had some big hits, and Cortney Hanson (Winamac, Ind./Pioneer) and Lael Burrus (Denver, Ind./North Miami) 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.

CHIRP! CHIRP! CARDINAL COACH LEMBO IS THE REAL DEAL

"THE GOLDEN VOICE" WITH CHRIS LOWRY

SPORTS JOURNAL COLUMNIST

I’ve seen this before. It was my senior year of college at Ball State in the fall of 2007 and I was calling ballgames for the Cardinal football team on the student radio station, 91.3 WCRD. BSU’s record the first three years of my collegiate tenure went like this: 2-9, 4-7, 5-7. Clearly some progress was being made under head coach Brady Hoke, but nothing too earth-shattering. And the atmosphere for home games was nearly non-existent. I think back to 2004 for the last home game of the season when I watched the Cards pick up a win over Mid-American Conference foe Central Florida and former Notre Dame coach George O’Leary (yes, the Knights used to be in the MAC. Clearly they were the ones to start the Mass Conference Migration we enjoy today). I saw that game with one of my buddies and together I think we made up approximately 10-percent of the crowd that day.

Fast forward to 2007, and as I watched this BSU team throughout the course of the year, I realized that these guys were pretty good. A narrow defeat at Michigan the year before helped pave the way for a strong 7-5 regular season, which concluded with an International Bowl loss in Toronto to Ray Rice and Rutgers. The Cards were solid, but not great that season. A one-point loss at Nebraska that year still haunts the minds of many Cardinal faithful.

But 2008 was special. BSU went a perfect 12-0 in the regular season and peaked at #12 in the Coaches and AP Polls. The Cards were an ESPN staple and 22,000 seat Scheumann Stadium was regularly filled. A couple fluke plays and a horrendous call ended the perfect season in the MAC Championship Game against Buffalo. Brady Hoke left for San Diego State prior to the following bowl game which resulted in a pounding to Tulsa under new coach Stan Parrish, who would finish a miserable 6-19 in Muncie in his two seasons.

Something tells me, however, that Ball State football is about to be back to the level of play the Cards enjoyed in 2007 and 2008 – if not this season, then in the very near future. Former Ball State Athletic Director Tom Collins hired Pete Lembo to take over the program in December of 2010 after Lembo spent five years as the head coach of Elon, which followed five seasons at Lehigh.

Immediately upon arriving in Muncie, Lembo instituted a more comprehensive weight-training program for the Cards. Almost across the board, BSU players increased their strength. Lembo took a Cardinal team that I felt had a drop-off in talent from previous years and went a more than respectable 6-6, including wins against Army and Indiana.  It was a very satisfying .500 campaign, and perhaps one of the reasons I felt that way was because I bought in. I have bought in lock, stock, and barrel into what Lembo is doing in Muncie.

I remember being in the post-game press conference at Lucas Oil Stadium that season after the Cards big victory over the Hoosiers and seeing how relaxed and at-ease the new coach was after beating the Hoosiers. It was then that I realized this was not a guy in over his head; Lembo truly wants to change the culture in the Muncie community.  The game-day culture didn’t truly change at Ball State until ’08, and then it quickly reverted back to the norm. Lembo is trying his best to engage fans through various efforts in the community and through social platforms. Lembo interacts through Twitter (@Pete_Lembo) and has an excellent fan letter he sends out prior to and following every ballgame. The letter is filled with insightful and honest thoughts about opponents and the state of the Cardinal team (go to www.ballstatesports.com to register.)

I officially met Lembo this past summer at the Kokomo Country Club for a Ball State alumni fundraiser. Sports Journal Publisher Dean Hockney and I both came away impressed at his passion for the game and friendliness in talking with the media. In fact, I sent Lembo an email the afternoon prior to the season opener wishing him “good luck” and received a reply back an hour later. How many head coaches are going to do that, especially on game-day? Several months ago I spoke with Eastern Comets football Coach Josh Edwards, who likewise agreed that Lembo is starting something special in Muncie and said it wouldn’t shock him to see Lembo with a BCS program in the future.  For that to happen, (and I hope it doesn’t) Lembo would have to continue his success on the gridiron.  That success appears to be starting quicker than anyone anticipated.

The Cards are 3-1 this season with wins against Eastern Michigan, Indiana and South Florida. The only loss came at Death Valley against a ranked Clemson squad. This past Saturday against South Florida, the Cards picked up their first-ever victory against a BCS program other than Indiana. The ballgame came down to coaching and heart versus talent. Coaching and heart won. The Bulls continuously converted busted plays into positive yardage. The talent discrepancy was apparent, as quarterback B.J. Daniels and his Bulls showed off athleticism that the Cards could not match. South Florida has more talent than Ball State, but still couldn’t leave Scheumann Stadium with a victory. The Cards continuously drove down the field against its BCS foe, much like a week prior against IU. And what about that Mid-American Conference offensive line? It has allowed a grand total of TWO sacks all season long. The weight-training program is clearly paying off.

Fans are starting to take note again as well. After a decent contingent of Cardinal faithful made the trek to Bloomington a week ago, more than 16,000 fans showed up this past Saturday to watch the South Florida game. Not great, but it’s a start. Aside from a contest at Army, Ball State will stick with MAC play through the rest of the regular season, and after three other MAC schools knocked off BCS teams this past weekend, that promises to still be quite a challenge. But Lembo and company have the train moving in the right direction.

2012 probably won’t be a program defining season, but I’m telling you to pay attention to what’s going on in Muncie these next few seasons. Trust me, I’ve seen this before.

(Chris Lowry is the radio voice of the Kokomo Wildkats and Howard County athletics on 1350 WIOU-AM. He contributes a monthly column to the Sports Journal.)