AKRON – “There were moments of pure brilliance and then there were moments of ‘What were you thinking?’”
Lady Viking head coach Mallory Eaton’s comment said it best Tuesday night. Tippecanoe Valley hosted Wawasee in the 2013 volleyball season opener in the two rival’s fifth match up in three seasons. This time it was Wawasee that took bragging rights home with a 20-25, 28-26, 25-17, 25-23 win Tuesday night in Akron.
Eaton did not really have any answers except to say that her team has to become mentally tougher.
“Volleyball is such a mental game,” Eaton said. “I think it is more mental toughness than physically toughness. After that first game we just became too comfortable and got a little careless with our play.”
Valley took advantage of the home court vibe and some mental errors on Wawasee’s side to win the first game, seeming to control the momentum and flow thanks to Kelsey Ball. The junior picked up the majority of her 11 kills in the second game. Ball seemed to be making a habit of ruining any of Wawasee’s chances to get a lead. Despite the nearly constant denial of Ball, Wawasee would not go away. The two teams exchanged points for what seemed like an eternity before the visitors finally prevailed 28-26.
The adrenaline rush from winning that second game likely carried Wawasee to victories in the next two games. But Lady Warrior head coach Jeff Phillips attributes his team’s turn around to more than just adrenaline.
“The girls played cleaner,” stated Phillips. “That first game they didn’t play clean and if you don’t play clean against a team that matches up with you then you’re going to lose. We out executed them in that second game and that made all the difference.”
Helping that execution in all four games was Alli Ousley. The junior helped her team out big time with 29 assists on Tuesday night including several key assists in pivotal games two and four.
That fourth game would be where Wawasee showed the best mental toughness all night. The Warriors started strong and built up a 22-17 lead before watching Valley crawl back to make it an extremely tight game, 23-22, advantage Wawasee. The Lady Warriors would hold on for a thrilling 25-23 victory to take the game and match. Phillips made reference to the girls keeping their confidence in that game.
“They (Valley) made some mental errors in games three and four and that obviously helped us,” Phillips said. “Getting big leads is not all because of one team. Valley made some mistakes and that put us in a good position and we were able to keep our confidence then when things got tighter towards the end.”
Confidence at the top is usually where it matters most and senior Lydia Katsaropoulos was beaming with it all night and would end up leading the team with 16 kills and four aces. Aly Anderson and Hunter Gaerte led the Lady Warriors with 22 and 20 digs, respectively.
Wawasee (1-0) will look to stay sharp when it welcomes in Fairfield on Thursday night. The game will be a rematch of the 2012 sectional title game in which Fairfield won easily. The Lady Warriors will look to protect the Hardwood Tee Pee when play gets started at approximately 7:30 p.m. in Syracuse.
In the junior varsity match, Wawasee took a 25-16, 24-26, 15-10 victory over the Vikings. Wawasee’s Ashley Beer led all players with five aces.