KOKOMO, Ind. - Indiana University Kokomo’s volleyball team has come a long way in just two months. Matched against a strong opponent, the young Cougars put together one of their strongest outings of the season.
The Cougars faced off against the Indiana Tech Warriors on Thursday, Sept. 29, at Northwestern High School. After coming out strong in the first two games, the Cougars faded down the stretch, losing to the Warriors in five sets. Indiana Tech headed back to northern Indiana with a 21-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-19, 18- 16 victory.
Coach Kristen Snoddy was pleased with the effort her team put forth.
“They played with a lot of heart,” Snoddy said. “They are in the locker room sorry they lost but happy about how hard they played.”
The Cougars appeared to be the dominant team in the first two games, winning 25-21 and 25-23. The first set was evenly played until Tech put together a four-point run to take a 20-17 lead. Strong play from Shelby Spall and Jenna Pelling swung the momentum the other way, and the Cougars scored eight of the next nine points to claim the first set. Krista Armstrong scored the winning point with a strong kill at the net.
The second set brought more of the same for the home team. The Cougars put some distance between them and the Warriors, taking a 15-10 lead. The Warriors roared back on a couple of aces from Bridjet Rowan and two IU Kokomo errors. Tech tied the set at 18, but once again the Cougars rose up with a strong scoring run, capped with a spike from Armstrong to make it 23-19. Tech cut the lead to 24-23 but committed an error that gave the set to IU Kokomo, 25-23.
Snoddy admits her young team might not have handled some of the strong runs by Tech the same two months ago.
“There is no doubt we’ve grown as a team,” she said. “There have been times when a team put a run on us and we didn’t respond. That isn’t the case anymore.”
Tech rebounded in the next two sets, mainly behind the strong net play of Christine Foest. The 6-2 freshman was dominant at the net and serving. In the third set, the Warriors jumped to a 6-1 lead. The Cougars cut the lead to one twice in the third set, but never got closer than two.
The fourth set saw more of the same from Foest and the Warriors as Tech built a 10-5 lead. Tech’s Emileen Palka added a pair of aces en route to the 25-19 win.
With the match tied at two sets apiece, the teams faced off for the fifth and final set – a race to 15. Heart and determination were not lacking on either side of the net as the teams battled to a 10-10 tie. Palka added an ace to make 11-10. IU Kokomo responded with a point of its own before the Warriors scored two quick points, making it 13-11.
The Cougars scored four of the next six points and the set was tied at 15. Having to win by two, the Warriors struck first with a kill from Foest. A service error gave IU Kokomo one more point to tie it at 16. Indiana Tech quickly scored the next two points and all of a sudden the hard-fought match was over.
Despite the outcome, Snoddy was nothing but proud of how her team responded to the pressure.
“Becoming mentally tough is definitely something we’ve worked on,” Snoddy said. “We hung in there and we didn’t let the pressure get to us.”
Statistically, the Cougars were led by Rachael Williams with 69 assists. Emily West finished with 27 digs and Armstrong had 17. Pelling was the leader in kills with 14 while Spall and Armstrong each added nine.
The Cougars last home game is set for Thursday, Oct. 6, at Northwestern High School beginning at 7 p.m.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.