AKRON — There wasn’t a lot of senior night hoopla at Tippecanoe Valley Thursday night because, well, the Lady Vikings only have one senior on their roster, but that lone upperclassman made her presence felt at the service line.
Libero defensive specialist Olivia Trippiedi provided an ultra-consistent, 17 of 17 serves while putting the bookends on a three-game, 25-22, 25-23, 26-24, win over Southwood. It was Trippiedi at the line as the Vikings started out the night with a 5-0 run on the way to their most lopsided win in game one, and it was Trippiedi on serve again as the home team rallied from a 22-24 deficit in the final game with a 4-0, game-winning run that included the senior’s lone ace of the night.
“She went back there, and she was ready to serve,” said Valley head coach Mallory Eaton. “You didn’t see any fear; she was ready to go. She kind of takes charge back there in her own way.
“She’s really found a way to be just super consistent. She’s not really a big, loud player, but she takes care of business and I really like that about her.”
Although the Vikings closed it out in three, the Knights certainly didn’t make it easy on them.
A 6-1 run late in the first game cued a close finish in the opening set, and an 8-2 start to the second game left Valley trailing most of that set before closing it out with a 4-0 spurt to go up two games to none. The third set was nip-tuck all the way and featured a grand total of 12 ties and five lead changes before Trippiedi and the Vikings closed it out with an Emily Peterson assist and Sophie Bussard kill.
It was a much more competitive showing than Southwood was able to muster at the Warsaw Invite just two weeks ago, when Valley handed the Knights a 25-14, 25-21 defeat, and that’s just the kind of preparation Eaton wanted for her team as it heads into NorthWood Sectional play against Fairfield next Thursday.
“From what I saw tonight, they really brought it, and I’m glad that my kids — it wasn’t our best performance — but they held them off. I thought they showed a lot of confidence and just played through it, and sometimes that’s even more exciting than just beating a team,” said Eaton.
“So to have a match like this, that’s just one more tool for us to call back on and say ‘Hey, we’ve been in this spot before.’ Because we have a very tough sectional, and we’re going to have the gauntlet regardless of how it plays out. I think this was kind of a blessing in disguise that we had to overcome adversity, and I think it’s better than just running over teams.”
While Trippiedi provided some big serves, Sophie Bussard did a little bit of everything for her team with 14 kills, 10 digs and a pair of block assists Thursday, which is the kind of performance Valley has come to expect from the junior middle hitter.
“When she first came in the program, she wasn’t the go-to kid because there were other, older kids that could kind of carry that weight, and she would kind of shock people. Now she is the go-to,” said Eaton of Bussard. “I feel that she really has kind of taken that role with pride. I think she enjoys wearing that hat, and she’s just got ice in her veins. She’s that kid you want on the service line or swinging because she’s not scared to lose. It could be thumb wrestling — the kid wants to win.”
Bussard got some help from junior setter Peterson, who recently surpassed the 1,000-assist career mark in a match with Northfield back on Sept. 21. Peterson passed out 28 assists in Thursday’s regular season-capper.
“Our passing wasn’t necessarily great, but she made a lot of really good choices, and I think that really sets up your hitters for success. And there’s a lot of times she’s bettered the ball,” explained Eaton of Peterson. “As a setter you touch the ball every time so you can’t hide her. She really has to make a lot of game time decisions, and I feel that Emily has come a long way in that, too.”
Also for Valley, Trippiedi notched nine digs at libero, while Marlea Myers finished with four aces, and Makenzie Woodcox recorded the Vikings’ only solo block of the night.
The team moves to 22-11 with a 6-3 Three Rivers Conference finish as it heads into Class 3-A tournament play.
“I have kids that have been with me for so long now so it’s really neat to see it come around and kind of pay off. I feel that these kids know my expectations. Last year we had 20 wins, but now we’re starting to get that confidence, and before I think we were still kind of shaky,” Eaton said.
“I really feel like we’re gaining a lot of momentum, and that’s really fun to see as a coach. I want it for the kids; I want them to have that success.”
Valley’s JV also earned the win against their Southwood counterparts Thursday, 25-11, 25-20. Sidney Wagner tallied six kills, while Allison Betten finished with four digs and five aces. Alexis Michael tallied four aces, and Sarah Myers finished with six assists as the Vikings JV concluded its season at 22-8.