SOUTH WHITLEY – As the sectional tournament is quickly appearing on the horizon, volleyball players and coaches are looking for consistency. Such detail could be found at Whitko Wednesday night, as the host Wildcats and Tippecanoe Valley Vikings traded blows for four games in a very entertaining 3-1 Whitko win.
Neither team held a double-digit lead all night, with Whitko taking game one 25-20, Valley finding enough in game two 26-24, Whitko reversing favor in game three 27-25 and the Wildcats surviving game four 25-21.
The largest lead at any point in the match was at 14-6 Valley in game three, but that would be short lived. Whitko would go on a 14-3 run to claim a 20-17 advantage. On a night where neither team strung together crushing momentum, the surge by Whitko was about the biggest tide turned. Valley would come back to take a 24-23 lead after an Abby Betten kill, and later a 25-24 advantage, but three straight unforced errors by the Vikings lost the pivotal game.
“It’s hit and miss with our kids,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Mallory Eaton. “I saw it at different times. Like game two, where we didn’t play scared. The kids dug in and were ready to go, they took some good swings. There were other pivotal moments when we didn’t get points we should have gotten. Early in the year, we didn’t get a lot of those points. Tonight, we got some. It’s becoming if we can handle the heat in pressure situations. We’re not quite there yet, but we are pretty close.”
Valley, which went out of its way to try to defend Kaity Reed, would leave a lot of open space amongst its magnetism to the powerful senior. A block in game one by Brooke Christoffel and a kill by Haley Howard put Whitko up 21-17, giving the Wildcats just enough room to claim the first stone.
A long rally in game two had a 24-all scoreline see a tremendous rally, eventually ending in a Betten kill. The senior then followed with an ace to knot the match score at 1-1.
Whitko jumped out in front of game four with a 15-10 lead, then extended its lead to 21-14, only for Valley to rally back at 22-20. But a pair of Valley errors, combined with a monster mash by Reed closed out the night and a resounding win for the Wildcats.
“We sort of rise and fall with Kaity, but we don’t want to rely on that,” said Whitko head coach Mike Howard. “We really want to bring others along. Players like Lindsey Sapp, who is a huge presence at the net. Brooke Christoffel, getting back from an injury, up there at the net. She had some huge plays for us. We need to have everyone make plays, not just sit back and watch Kaity do it all. I thought we had a really nice mix of lots of different players stepping up tonight.”
Reed would lead the Cats with 22 kills and 22 digs, several of her kill attempts not hammers but smart tips into space. Brianna Tackett added eight kills and 11 digs, Haley Yohe had 40 assists, 10 digs and four aces and Kristina Slater made some big plays in the back row, digging 21 attempts.
Betten had a monster game, recording 17 digs, 16 kills and five aces. Emily Peterson sent up 21 assists for Valley.
The Valley JV defeated Whitko 25-13, 25-17. Sarah Myers led the Vikings with 10 assists and three aces.
Whitko moves to 13-9 overall and finishes up TRC play at 4-5, its next contest Saturday at home against Heritage. Tippecanoe Valley sits at 17-11 and is 2-6 in the conference with a matchup against Southwood next Tuesday.