BY DEAN HOCKNEY for IU Kokomo Atheltics
KOKOMO, Ind. – On a night when the Indiana Univeristy Kokomo women’s volleyball team honored its lone senior, the Lady Cougars could not hold the home court against a talented squad from Lima, Ohio. NAIA No. 31-ranked University of Northwestern Ohio showed why they have just one loss on the season as the downed Kokomo 25-17, 25-15, 25-12. It marked the 21st straight victory for the Racers (23-1).
“Boy, I wish they would have picked a different team to end our home season with, they are awful good,” said Kokomo head coach Kristen Snoddy. “We played better than the last time we played them. I think the girls didn’t quit playing, and this is not for the faint of heart. One thing about playing a team like this is you see where you are as a program.”
Senior Night got off to a great start for Kokomo as they scored the first point of the evening on a UNOH error at the net. But a pair of kills gave the Lady Racers a 2-1 lead. Kokomo bounced back and scored following a long volley and a second error by UNOH, but on the next volley the Cougars hit the ball into the net to give the Racers a 3-2 lead - a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the set.
“We made some incredible plays and saves,” said Snoddy of Kokomo’s play during the three-set match. “So, the effort was there; we just would make two great plays and then make a silly mental error.”
In the second set, UNOH scored the first point, but freshman Rachel Allen (Lizton, Ind./Tri-West) fired a kill down the line to tie the game at one. The Racers scored the next four points before another kill by Allen ended the rally. Lael Burrus (Denver, Ind./North Miami) served an ace to cut the lead to 4-6 and Shelby Spall’s (Kokomo, Ind./Western) kill made it 5-7, but that is as close as the Cougars would be the rest of the set.
“We got caught watching the other side of the net too much and not anticipating where the ball was going to go,” said Snoddy.
The third set started like the second, but this time a kill from Miranda Hammons (Indianapolis/North Adams-Jerome) knotted the game at one. Megan Riley (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine) cut the lead to 3-2, and Cortney Hanson (Winamac, Ind./Pioneer) kept Kokomo in the game with a kill to make it 5-3. But the rest of the set was all Racers and they cruised to the 13-point win.
“We played clear through to the end; we didn’t quit,” said Snoddy. “I think we have found a lineup that is working for us. I think we have better floor leadership than we had at the beginning of the season, and that is what we are working toward – getting better.”
Snoddy noted that since the Earlham College Tournament, the Lady Cougars have played much better. Prior to that tourney, Kokomo won 18-percent of its sets. Since the September 9 tourney, they have won 43-percent of its sets. Kokomo stands 7-20 on the season as it closed out its home portion of its inaugural NAIA campaign.
“When you can’t really gauge your team by wins or losses, you have to look at other milestones,” said the second-year Cougar mentor. “This is a good indication that we are moving in the right direction.”
Before the match, Kokomo honored its lone senior, Clinton Prairie graduate Heather Tolson. The Frankfort, Ind., native and Indiana High School Coaches Class 1A/2A All-Star transferred to IUK this season after spending two years at Kankakee Community College and one season at West Liberty University. At Kankakee, she was an NJCAA All-Region and All-Tournament selection after she led the school to the regional title match. She left KCC as a career top 10 performer in assists (1,317), saves (130) and sets played (298).
“Heather truly was something we were looking for in a setter,” said Snoddy. “It was gratifying to play with someone of her caliber. She has a presence at the net that most setters don’t have. She can block and she can kill, plus she sees the court very well. She will be missed.”
As the IUK home portion of the schedule ends, it still has six road matches remaining. First up is a road trip to Purdue Univeristy North Central (5-19) on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. Two days later they travel to Romeoville, Ill., for an 8 p.m. match against NCAA Division II Lewis University (11-7).
“We still have a fair amount of season left and I think we still have some wins in us,” said Snoddy. “That is what we are working for.”