Archive for September 20, 2013

VOLLEYBALL COUGARS CRUISE TO WIN NUMBER 16

Cortney Hanson serves for the IU Kokomo Cougars in a win against Calumet College of St. Joseph. (SJ photo by William Gibson)

Cortney Hanson serves for the IU Kokomo Cougars in a win against Calumet College of St. Joseph. (SJ photo by William Gibson)

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – On a stormy Thursday evening, the Indiana University Kokomo Cougars women’s volleyball squad showed a little thunder of its own with a straight set victory over the visiting Crimson Wave of Calumet College of St. Joseph, 25-19, 25-13, 25-15. The victory in Cougar Gymnasium ended a two-game skid for the Cougars as IUK returned home for the first time in 13 matches.

“I was pleased with the way we recovered,” said IUK head coach Heather Hayes. “After losing to IU East, our girls took it pretty hard and we didn’t play up to our capability. But we moved forward and I am proud of how we recovered.

“It was a long road trip and it is nice to get back in front of the home crowd. I want to thank the crowd because they really come out and support us. It was a phenomenal crowd tonight and I hope they keep coming.”

The Cougars jumped to a quick 2-0 lead on the serve of freshman Teylor Rains (Martinsville, Ind./Martinsville) and kills from Micayla Speidel (Columbus, Ind./Columbus East) and Megan Riley (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine). CCSJ came back and grabbed its only lead of the entire evening at 5-4. But a kill off the arm of Rachel Allen (Lizton, Ind./Tri-West) followed by a service ace from Lael Burrus (Denver, Ind./North Miami) allowed IUK to regain the lead. The Crimson Wave cut the lead to 9-8, but a surprise kill from the middle of the court by Allen, followed by a Riley kill and Speidel block stretched the lead to four and the Cougars cruised to a first set win.

“We played well; we played up to our capability,” said Hayes. “We played seven matches this week and have two more this weekend, so I am really thrilled with how we played.”

The Cougars started hot in the second game, leading 4-1 following a kill from Kaleigh Ensley (Fort Wayne, Ind./Snider). CCSJ answered with three points to tie the game at four, but Burrus – the IUK defensive specialist at the libero position – rattled off six consecutive service points. The Crimson Wave scored to cut the lead to 11-5 only to see Shelby Spall (Kokomo, Ind./Western) begin a six point rally with Allen serving to put the game away. Three service points from Cortney Hanson (Logansport, Ind./Pioneer) gave the Cougars a 14-point lead and Keeana Walton (Peru, Ind./Maconaquah) ended the CCSJ misery with a game-winning kill.

Game three was close for the first 15 points as the Cougars bench saw some much-earned playing time. Leading 8-7, Kokomo freshman Kaley Harness (LaFontaine, Ind./Southwood) put the game away with six straight service points with a little help from a pair of kills and a block from Speidel.

“Our girls are exhausted and we knew we wanted to try and get some people some rest tonight,” said Hayes. “It is nice to have a really deep team. They don’t all get an opportunity to get in every night, so it was nice they could get everyone a chance to make contributions.”

Hanson led IUK with 24 assists and nine digs, while Speidel led the Cougars with 12 kills and two block assists. Ensley topped IUK with three service aces. Burrus and Harness added seven digs each while Harness also had five kills. Allen had seven kills and four digs and Spall ended the night with six kills.

IU Kokomo (16-3, 4-1 Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) travels to Asbury College on Sept. 21 for a split doubleheader with Asbury and Cincinnati Christian University. They return to Cougar Gym on Sept. 25 for a 7 p.m. contest against Cincinnati Christian.

KOKOMO SCHOOLS HONOR JIM CALLANE AS HE ASSUMES ROLE AS HOOPS HALL PRESIDENT

Jim Callane and Jeff Hauswald

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – It is not often that Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame member Jim Callane is surprised. But at a recent Kokomo School Corporation Board of Trustees meeting, the legendary player, coach and athletic administrator was nearly speechless as the corporation presented him with a public resolution to honor his service to the Hall of Fame. In June, Callane, a long-time IBHOF board member, started a two-year term as president.

“I truly appreciate the gesture,” said Callane. “This was unexpected and I thank the school board. I consider it an honor to represent Kokomo and I am looking forward to it.”

Kokomo Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Hauswald has seen Callane in action first hand as the honoree is also a member and past president of the Kokomo school board.

“To have someone like Jim Callane, who represents our school community in such a bright light, is outstanding,” said Hauswald. “We are really pleased that the president of a state organization is from right here in Kokomo.”

Callane, who was elected to the IBHOF in 2008, is a 1960 graduate of Rushville High School and a 1964 DePauw University graduate, having played basketball under Hall of Fame coaches Les Ray (Rushville) and Elmer McCall (DePauw). A former head coach at Danville, Linton and Haworth High Schools, Callane spent 18 years as athletic director at Kokomo High School and resides in Kokomo.

“With Haworth and Kokomo, there is a great tradition in basketball and athletics – especially in the North Central Conference,” said Callane. “(Kokomo is) very highly respected around the state and that makes it easy to speak about our great city in my new capacity.”

Current school board president Joe Dunbar, who taught with Callane in the school system before both retired, is a big supporter of the former athletic director. He credits Callane’s vision for athletics as a key part of the current revitalization of the KHS sports facilities.

“We should note that Jim Callane is Mr. Athletics around Kokomo, and has been for many years,” said Dunbar. “It is his passion to see the football field come alive, plus all of the other improvements that are happening at Memorial Gym and with our athletic teams – and now he is carrying that to the state level. We appreciate that and know he is carrying the flag for Kokomo.”

Callane’s hard work and vision is not only seen in Kokomo, but also at the Hall of Fame in New Castle – which sits in the shadow of another NCC basketball palace at New Castle High School.

“Jim is a hard-working guy who is very well organized,” said HOF Executive Director Chris May. “Jim will bring a lot to the table. We look forward to Jim bringing new processes, new thoughts, and new energy to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.”

Callane is not only a cheerleader for Kokomo, but in his new position he is leading the way for the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. Even as he was being recognized by the Kokomo school board, he was touting the museum he has come to love.

“If you have never visited the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle, I highly encourage a trip – you could spend hours there,” he told the board and audience members. “There is 14,000 square feet of basketball related displays, and Kokomo is well represented at the Hall of Fame.”

Callane’s reach has been felt not only in Kokomo, but throughout Hoosierland – and the Kokomo school board recognized his efforts with the following resolution.

“The Kokomo School Corporation does hereby express the sincere appreciation for the school community to board member James Callane for his commitment to the student-athletes, both at the Kokomo School Corporation and throughout the state of Indiana.”

Jim Callane is not only an asset to the city of Kokomo, but also to an entire state known for a game played in the hardwood temples of Hoosier Hysteria.

(This story first appeared in the Indiana Basketball History Magazine, a publication of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle. For more information on the Hall of Fame call 765-529-1891 or visit www.hoopshall.com.)

TAYLER PERSONS; DOWN BUT NOT OUT FOR THE KOKOMO WILDKATS

Tayler Persons

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – The Kokomo High School athletic program took a devastating hit when star football and basketball player Tayler Persons suffered a torn ACL, an injury that will keep him off the football field for the rest of the season. The injury occurred on a run during the second half of the Fort Wayne Wayne game in week two of the season. And according to Persons, he knew right away something was not right.

“When it happened, I knew there was something seriously wrong. I have never really been injured, but I knew it wasn’t good,” he said. “But when they told me it was a torn ACL, I was down for a bit but then I went into a mode of how strong I was going to come back. I want to come back stronger than ever. God has a plan for everything, and I know he has a plan.”

When Persons didn’t get up from the hit near the sideline, many on the Kokomo side of the Wayne press box cringed. We all know how tough of a competitor he is, and while he may be slow to get up after some plays – he always gets up. But not this time. The Wildkat training staff helped him limp to the sideline and most of us had a sinking suspicion that this was a serious injury. Persons was the heart and soul of the Kats, but even injured, he knows he has a role. He said that while he is not going to be on the field, the Kats team captain can still play a vital role with his leadership and experience.

“Right now, I have to be a leader,” said Persons, who predicts he will have surgery at the end of September. “I have to be a coach. I am going to be out there with them every day, including basketball. I am going to help them out with anything they need.”

But just how important can one person be to an athletic program? Persons was the starting quarterback and free safety for the Wildkats. He played in 33 games during his four seasons, rushing for 694 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also passed for another 847 yards and 11 scores. But while he steadily led the double wing offense, it was on defense that he was an absolute monster. He tallied 245 tackles – fourth most in school history and well on pace to break Curt Hutchins record of 299. He also had 114 assisted tackles (second all-time) and five interceptions and was also a member of the 2010 and 2011 North Central Conference champions.

On the basketball floor, Persons was a contender for the title of Indiana Mr. Basketball and has already committed to play at Northern Kentucky University – a school he says is 100 percent behind him during this injury. He has 913 career points and was on pace to finish third in school history behind Wildkat legends Goose Ligon and Jimmy Rayl. In three seasons, he helped lead Kokomo to a 65-11 record, including a 22-3 record and the NCC title last year. He was also a key member of the 2011 IHSAA Class 4A state runners-up squad and was a 2013 Indiana Junior All-Star performer.

Yes, he was that important. He was the difference between Kokomo winning and losing against Muncie Central last Friday night. And his loss will be the difference in many more games during the rest of the 2013-2014 athletic season. Many Kokomo fans have asked if this is the last we will see of the crowd favorite.

“My number one goal is to get back 100 percent for my college season,” said Persons. “But a main goal is to come back and play with my team at the end of the (basketball) season. Even if it is only for five or 10 minutes, I have a goal to be back.”

Knowing the work ethic of Tayler Persons, he might just show up on the court at Memorial Gymnasium come late February 2014 – and I for one would love to see him play once again. Until then, this is a prime opportunity for Wildkat athletes to step up and fill the void left by Persons. Much like Luis Ascencio did Friday night when he rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown. Who is Luis Ascencio? I have no idea – I have to admit I had never heard of the 5-6, 165 pound sophomore and had to look him up in the program. But I will inquire about him this week – and I bet there will be more Kats who dig deep and pick up the slack of their downed leader.

Until next time, remember to keep the man and ship in sports – and I’ll see you at the game.

Dean Hockney is the owner/publisher of the Sports Journal of Central Indiana and sports editor of the Kokomo Herald. His column can be found each week on the last page of the Sports Journal. You can follow Hockney on Twitter (@Sports_Journal).