Archive for Cougars


New IU Kokomo women's basketball coach Whitney Farris is congratulated by Athletic Director Brandon Podgorski. (SJ Photo: Dean Hockney)

New IU Kokomo women’s basketball coach Whitney Farris is congratulated by Athletic Director Brandon Podgorski. (SJ Photo: Dean Hockney)


KOKOMO, Ind. – After months of speculation, Indiana University Kokomo finally made official what many suspected – the Cougars will add women’s basketball to its slate of varsity sports beginning with the 2014-2015 season. And they didn’t have to look far to find a coach. Whitney Farris, an assistant coach with the IUK men’s team and a 2006 Kokomo High School graduate, will take the reins of the program beginning immediately.

“This is really a dream come true, being able to coach in the town you grew up in,” said Farris, who arrived on the IUK campus as a graduate assistant sports information director in 2012. “I started playing basketball in Kokomo at the YMCA in the Little Dribbler’s program; basketball is my life, so this is a great honor.”

Cougar Athletic Director Brandon Podgorski, who announced the formation of the new sports program, said he is thrilled the college could hire a coach from within the Cougar athletic program. He said that the formation of the women’s basketball team keeps the athletic program on pace to meet NAIA program requirements of at least six teams. The women’s hoops team joins the men’s team, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country. A sixth team will be announced in the near future.

“I am very excited that we are going forward with women’s basketball here at IUK and that we had a coach right underneath my nose who is very qualified for the position,” said Podgorski. “It is a good fit for us. She is the right person to take us into the future of women’s basketball.”

Todd Gambill, IUK vice chancellor for student affairs, said the dual announcement of the formation of a women’s hoops program and hiring its first coach was exciting for the Kokomo school.

“We were fortunate to find someone of her character and ability right here at IUK,” he said. “Her integrity, her genuine commitment to the academic success of her student-athletes and her love of the game is exactly what we were looking for in a coach. And the fact that she is a local product will help when she hits the recruiting trail. I just can’t stress how fortunate we are. This is a tremendous day for IUK.”

Farris is a self-professed basketball junkie. But her hoops knowledge is not just from hitting the books; it is from years of action on the hardwood. She played four years of varsity basketball for the Lady Wildkats and helped the team win the 2003 IHSAA Class 4A state title with a perfect 26-0 campaign. A McDonald’s All-American nominee, Farris was a two-time All-North Central Conference performer and played in the Hoosiers Reunion All-Star Classic. She earned 12 letters at Kokomo in four different sports, and she excelled outside of the classroom as a member of the National Honor Society.

“The fundamentals I learned under Charlie Hall at Kokomo helped me so that going to college was not as big of a step,” said Farris. “It is funny, we used scouting reports and stuff that I thought was normal for high school, but it turns out it wasn’t. We were just that prepared. And that not only helped me in college but will help me as a coach.”

Following her success at Kokomo, she was a four-year performer at the NCAA Division I level at Valparaiso University, where she graduated with a degree in business administration (marketing emphasis). A 5-11 guard/forward combo player, Farris played in 90 consecutive games her final three years at Valpo. Her senior season, she averaged seven points, four rebounds and was second on the team in assists. Her junior year, Farris helped lead the Crusaders to regular season wins over No. 1-ranked Florida State and Purdue. Farris was also an academic all-conference honoree.

Farris said she plans on using her connections at the high school level when she starts recruiting.

“I have already watched Taylor play,” said Farris. “With Kokomo and the other county teams right here, I think recruiting will be easy. From Indianapolis to Lafayette, this is a great area to recruit from. There is so much basketball talent here that there are some great pickings to choose from.”

She noted that while she lacks experience as a head coach, she has been around the game for years in a non-playing capacity. She has worked as a camp counselor for the Notre Dame women’s basketball team. At Valpo, she served as the assistant for the women’s basketball summer camps and was a counselor at the men’s basketball summer camps. Last summer, she was a part of the staff at the Purdue women’s basketball junior skills camp. And of course, spending two years working with IU Kokomo men’s coach Jace Thompson has helped.

“It’s funny, earlier the question I got a lot was, ‘how are you going to coach men?’ Now I get, ‘how are you going to coach women?’ It is really just X’s and O’s and they are all people at the end of the day,” said Farris. “I have learned that not every player is the same, whether it is a guy or a girl, and you just have to develop relationships. I really care about each player.”

Whether it is winning a high school state championship or knocking off the top-ranked college team in the nation, Farris is a proven winner on the court. Her next challenge will be proving she can take that experience and use it to garner wins as a college head coach. And she will begin that journey in her hometown. It appears the IU Kokomo women’s basketball program is in good hands.


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)


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.


Indiana University Kokomo Cougars


For Indiana University Kokomo

KOKOMO, Ind. – It might be too early to talk about NAIA national championships or KIAC league titles, but after the IU Kokomo women’s volleyball team swept Rochester College in a doubleheader to christen the new Cougar Gym, expectations for the team took a step up. Playing in front of a packed house, the Cougars played the maximum 10 games over the course of two matches to start the season 2-0.

“This was a whole team effort,” said first-year IUK head coach Heather Hayes. “It was pretty fantastic. We called on people tonight who didn’t have a lot of playing time to come in and serve in crunch time – and they did their job.”

The Cougars took game one 21-25, 25-13, 25-19, 16-25, 15-9 and game two 25-20, 22-25, 20-25, 25-17, 15-12.

“It was truly a collective effort and I couldn’t be more proud of how deep they had to dig to earn that first victory,” said Hayes. “That shows a ton of maturity and heart for such a young team.”

Moments after IUK Interim Chancellor Susan Sciame-Giesecke, Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight and Kokomo Schools Superintendent Jeff Hauswald cut the red ribbon to officially open Cougar Gymnasium, IUK freshman Teylor Rains (Martinsville, Ind./Martinsville) launched the first serve through the air and scored the first point on a Rochester error. Unfortunately, that would be the only lead the Cougars would have and the first set in the new gym went to the Warriors.

Set two was a different story. Tied at three, sophomore Megan Riley (New Palestine, Ind./New Palestine) delivered a kill, Kokomo libero Lael Burrus (Denver, Ind./North Miami) fired an ace, freshman Kaley Harness (LaFontaine, Ind./Southwood) followed with a powerful kill and junior Shelby Spall (Kokomo, Ind./Western) blocked a shot. And just like that, the Cougars owned a 7-3 lead and never looked back.

“They all did their job,” said Hayes. “The whole team surprised me on how fast they were able to move. Tonight was just a team effort; it took every one of them to pull this out.”

The third set started much like the second. Kokomo trailed 5-3 until Rachel Allen (Lizton, Ind./Tri-West) and Harness delivered back-to-back kills to tie the game. With Allen serving, Kokomo scored eight consecutive points to take an 11-5 lead. The Warriors cut the lead to two (14-12), but four straight Rochester faults ended any chance of a comeback and Kokomo led the match 2-1.

“The name of the game tonight was serving,” said Hayes. “We played very disciplined tonight; it was great to watch. Serving is the name of our game, and when we lost the games we lost, it was because serving wasn’t very good. But we had a talk (during a break) about weak serving, and you see what happened. (The Warriors) fast offense wasn’t able to be as conductive against our serve.”

Rochester (0-2) won the fourth set with ease to set up a decisive fifth set – much to the delight of the nearly 500 spectators in Cougar Gym. The Warriors scored the first two points and led 7-5 before Allen scored on a kill down the sideline. Rochester faulted to tie the set and Harness provided another kill to give Kokomo the lead. Allen then provided her second long serving string of the night, scoring on six plays in-a-row to give the Cougars a 12-7 lead. Harness and Spall fired a pair of kills for the 13th and 14th points and Micayla Speidel (Columbus, Ind./Columbus East) provided the match winning shot to give Indiana University Kokomo its historic first win in Cougar Gym.

“With what we had coming back and what we recruited, we thought we had a chance to be good this year,” said Hayes. “I think we will have our ups and downs – but this was a heck of a way to start.”

The Cougars travel to Berea College on Aug. 24 to play matches against the host squad and Tennessee Wesleyan. They return home to Cougar Gym on Aug. 29 for a 4 p.m. match against Point Park University.

(Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana)