Archive for October 14, 2014

KOKOMO, EASTERN, NORTHWESTERN ALL GARNER BOYS SOCCER SECTIONAL HARDWARE

IHSAA

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – Kokomo High School has a long history of winning tournament games in IHSAA competition. For example, the boys basketball team holds the state record with 74 sectional championships, and the Wildkat program has more than 300 sectional titles overall. And while the boys soccer program is a recent addition – the first IHSAA state champion was not crowned until 1994 – only once has a Wildkat team hoisted a sectional championship trophy, and that was in 2005. But last Saturday evening at the IHSAA Class 2A Kokomo Boys Soccer Sectional championship game, the Wildkats doubled that number after a thrilling 3-1 title game win over Logansport.

Keagan James, who had five goals in the sectional opening win over Western, scored all three against Logansport to finish with nine in three games. Against the Berries, the sophomore scored early in the first half, then found the net in the 61st and 78th minutes to seal the title for the Kats.

Kokomo (13-6) advances to play Jay County (7-8-1) in the Kokomo Regional on Thursday at 5 p.m. No. 10 Fishers (10-2-4) and No. 20 Harrison (17-1-2) square-off in the second game with the championship on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Class 1A Oak Hill Boys Soccer Sectional

While Kokomo won its second title, the Eastern Comets celebrated the school’s first boys soccer sectional championship with a 1-0 win over the three-time defending champion Golden Eagles of Oak Hill. Ben Cole hit the back of the net midway through the first half and the defense did the rest to preserve the victory. Aaron Wyant posted the shutout in goal.

Eastern (14-2-2) advances to play Delphi (7-9-1) at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Peru Regional. Argos (15-3-1) and Peru (12-5-1) meet in the 5:30 p.m. opener with the championship game scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m.

Class 1A Northwestern Boys Soccer Sectional

Four-peat! The No. 6-ranked Northwestern Tigers took care of business and defeated Rossville 7-0 to claim its fourth consecutive sectional championship and eighth overall. Blaine Brutus led the Tigers attack with three goals and an assist, Jacob Wagner had two goals, Collen Hodson had a goal and an assist, Jesse Murdock had a goal and Austin Nolder added an assist.

Northwestern outscored the competition 17-0 in sectional action. Evan LaDow posted the shutout in the championship game with one save.

Northwestern (16-3-1) advances to play Crawfordsville (7-9-1) at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the Tipton Regional. Defending state champion and top-ranked Guerin Catholic (17-2) and No. 19 Hamilton Heights (13-5) play the 5 p.m. game with the championship slated for Saturday at 6 p.m.

HARD-EARNED WIN FOR IU KOKOMO VOLLEYBALL OVER ST. FRANCIS

IUK Team

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – Going into its game against the University of St. Francis, the Indiana University Kokomo volleyball team knew it would be a tough match. USF entered with a 10-9 record in the always tough Crossroads League, so the Cougars were leery of believing the record matched the competition level. But when the Cougar Gym doors were locked for the night, IU Kokomo had walked out with a solid four-set victory (27-25, 20-25, 25-23, 25-17).

“This was a very good win,” said IU Kokomo head coach Heather Hayes. “It is nice to bring in a team that has to increase our level of play and challenge us to win. St. Francis was a good volleyball team tonight. They play in a very tough conference and I knew their record was deceiving.”

The Cougars jumped to an early 8-4 lead, and seemed to be in control 17-8. But then USF countered by scoring 16 of the next 23 points to tie the game at 24. Lindi Thomas (Parker City, Ind./Wapahani) put Kokomo up 25-24 on a kill, and after the teams exchanged errors, Micayla Speidel (Columbus, Ind./Columbus East) gave the Cougars the first set win with an overhand that found a hole in the St. Francis defense.

Kokomo struggled in set two despite a 3-1 lead. After three ties and a lead change, St. Francis took the lead for good at 8-7 and eventually led by nine points in route to the second set victory.

“I think tonight was about ball control,” said Hayes. “They cleaned the floor with us in game two because we couldn’t pass the ball and had no ball control. The reason we got off to a good start in game one was because we served them really well. We took their middle out with our serve in game one, but served poorly in game two. We served much better in three and four and that was the difference maker.”

The third set saw both teams step-up the level of play with 10 ties and five lead changes. The Cougars took an early 3-2 lead thanks to back-to-back kills off the arms of Speidel and Elyse Younger (Fishers, Ind./Fishers), followed by a Thomas block. USF regained at 5-4 – and the rest of the game went back and forth with neither team leading by more than three points. Kokomo finally broke through for the set win thanks to a pair of USF errors and a kill from Keeana Walton (Peru, Ind./Maconaquah).

The final set was another close contest with six ties and four lead changes before the Cougars took a 13-12 lead on solid net play from Walton and Lexi Brickner (Wabash, Ind./Southwood). From there, the Cougars slowly pulled away and Kaitlyn Emery (Frankfort, Ind./Frankfort) closed the door with an ace mixed into the final three service points.

Younger led Kokomo with 11 kills while Thomas had eight kills, four assists and a game-high 14 digs. Speidel finished with 10 kills, Cortney Hanson had a game-high 23 assists, Casey Colgate had 15 assists and Kaleigh Ensley finished with a game-high 13 digs.

IU Kokomo (14-7) returns to action on Oct. 11 when Midway College and Indiana University Northwest visit the Cougar Gym for a tri-match. The action starts at 1 p.m. when the Cougars battle Midway, IU Northwest and Midway will play at 3 p.m. and the Cougars will close the day out against IU Northwest at approximately 5 p.m.

WHITNEY FARRIS READY TO GUIDE INAUGURAL SEASON OF IU KOKOMO WOMEN’S HOOPS

Whitney Farris 2

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – In 2011, the Indiana University Kokomo athletic program launched with women’s volleyball and men’s basketball. With the success of local high school girls hoops teams, sports fans immediately began asking about a women’s basketball program for the Cougars. Four years later, they are getting their wish as the IU Kokomo squad has started practice and the first game is one month away.

The Cougars will be young in every aspect of its game – coaching, players and preparation. But first-year coach Whitney Farris, who has spent last year as an assistant coach on the men’s team and previously served as the IU Kokomo sports information director, understands baby steps are needed as she launches the women’s program.

“It is a long process, and I have to keep telling the team it is a long process,” said Farris, who played NCAA Division I basketball at Valparaiso University. “They are not going to get everything their first time, especially when we are putting in an offense and a defense. We will just keep working and doing a lot of teaching and learning. We have a lot of kids who can take some criticism and learn from it.”

Unlike teams that have a new coach, the Cougars do not have the luxury of any returning players to quickly learn a new system. Every player this year is new to collegiate basketball, with the exception of junior Ancilla College transfer Hope Wagner. In all, this year’s squad will consist of 11 freshmen and one junior.

“We have had a lot of great surprises,” said Farris, who played on the 2003 IHSAA Class 4A undefeated state champion Kokomo squad. “I am still getting to know all of these kids – and they are still getting to know each other. I am surprised at how hard they are working under these circumstances. A lot of them have exceeded our expectations.”

But that doesn’t mean the squad doesn’t have big-game leadership – Lela Crawford helped lead her Tipton quad to the Final Four last year, as did Katrina Nevendorf of Logansport, and Alanis Jones played under the spotlight for Kokomo’s Lady Wildkats. Now, it is a matter of finding who will step up.

“We don’t have the upperclassmen to show the younger girls what to do, but we do have some who are stepping up,” said Farris. “To have 11 freshmen and one junior, I told them they will have to grow up quickly. Everyone has to be a leader at this point, even if that just means showing up to practice and working as hard as you can. We have different practice captains every day so we can try and get someone to step up into a leadership role, and that seems to be helping.”

One thing Farris will have to adjust to is a lack of scouting reports for upcoming opponents since the Cougars have never played a collegiate game.

“We will just have to prepare to play a game,” said Farris. “We will have to focus on us since we don’t know what to expect. We will have to go out and play hard. What we talk about in practice I will want to see on the court during a game. And that is about the only thing we can do – focus on ourselves and not the opponent. With all of these freshmen, they will have to learn the college game is much faster. But they will adjust.”

The inaugural roster for the Cougars squad includes: Alanis Jones (5-10, Fr., Kokomo); Lela Crawford (5-8, Fr., Tipton); Katrina Nevendorf (5-8, Fr., Logansport); Dejianna Butler (5-10, Fr., Evansville Bosse); Tabitha DeWitt (6-0, Fr., North Manchester); Kiersten Eley (5-9, Fr., Fort Wayne Snider); Deja Felder (5-5, Fr., Goshen); Nevada Jones (5-5, Fr., Fort Wayne Northrop); Marli Leazenby (5-8, Fr., Caston); Lauren Pressley (5-9, Fr., Indianapolis Irvington Prep); Hope Wagner (5-9, Jr., Knox via Ancilla College); and Whitney Williamson (6-0, Fr., Brown County).

The Cougars launch its inaugural women’s basketball campaign in the friendly confines of Cougar Gym on Nov. 4 when Ohio Christian University visits. IU Kokomo will have 13 home games this season, closing with Point Park University on Feb. 14 for Senior Night – although the Cougars will have to wait at least one year before honoring any seniors. Local fans should circle Dec. 11 on their calendars as the Cougars will travel to Indianapolis to play NCAA Division I IUPUI – a program led by Northwestern graduate Austin Parkinson and featuring former Western standout Nicole Rogers.

The inaugural season of Cougar women’s basketball roars to life at the Cougar Gym during the first week of November, and while the team is young, the players will be hungry for success and should be entertaining on the court.