WINONA LAKE – There was a lot of familiarity to be sought Tuesday night. For Whitko, a new coach and a lot of new faces. For Lakeland Christian Academy, a new and difficult opponent and its own set of “Hello, My Name Is” stickers on the jerseys. In the 3-0 Whitko win in the volleyball match, both clubs gained plenty of insight.
Final tally for the match ended up 25-12, 25-13, 25-13 in favor of the visitors.
Whitko opened its season with seniors Kaity Reed and Haley Yohe doing much of the damage as they have done now for four seasons. But integrating a lot of new players into the cycle, including a pair of freshmen, was part of the order of business. Also learning to play in coach Mike Howard’s offense showed its hangups, but such things happen in mid-August.
“For us, this was trying to improve from our scrimmage last week and be cleaner at the service line and be clean in the serve receive,” said Howard, who moved to Whitko this season after a lengthy stint as coach at Warsaw through last year. “There’s a lot of new faces and a lot of new positions for this team. I thought considering this is our first game, we did pretty well with most of it.”
Reed, who is being sought by several Division I programs for her volleyball talent, showed why she is one of the top players in the area. On three separate occasions in the match, Reed uncorked three straight aces, racking up 11 altogether and pounding 14 kills. Reed also had eight digs and a block, but LCA tended to notice the ’22’ on her jersey and reacted on several occasions, according to Cougars coach Glenn Goldsmith.
“They overpowered us, but we didn’t do much to get in their way,” Goldsmith said of Reed and Brianna Tackett, who added 10 kills of her own. “Their jump serves and their power hitting really got to us. Our girls knew who Kaity was, and sometimes played like it.”
Yohe hoisted 28 assists and Kristina Slater added eight digs and a pair of aces for the Wildcats.
“We’re learning how to work with each other,” Howard added. “There are five great seniors on this team. They had a very positive season last year, but we’ve added some great things into this year that should help them grow. We are looking to establish our identity a little outside of what Kaity can do, so the underclassmen can be ready when called upon.”
LCA, on the other hand, took the court with one senior in defensive specialist Natalie Plastow, and a lot of kids with inexperience. Game one wasn’t close as Whitko took an 18-6 lead and didn’t look back, but LCA managed to trail just 7-5 in the second, and forced Whitko into a timeout with the Wildcats just up 15-10. But a 10-3 run ended the second, and a 6-0 start to begin the third game, highlighted by Reed opening with her aces, reversed all fortune.
LCA, which lost to Jimtown in three games to open its campaign Monday night, had freshman Cami Dahms pace the club with seven digs and a pair of kills. Plastow added five digs and started to show some order in the back row as the match wore on. Heather Plastow and Baylee Wiley each had four digs and Kyla Kohler contributed with four points with an assist.
“Our communication on the court was lacking, and a little disappointing to see,” Goldsmith said. “Once we got a little louder in game three, we made a small run, but then we stopped talking and they scored on us at will. That’s one thing we definitely need to work on.”
LCA (0-2) will play five games Saturday at the West Noble Invite while Whitko (1-0) will play again next Tuesday at home against Churubusco.