By Mike Deak
BOURBON – Triton’s past week has been one the program could have never imagined at the beginning of the season. And it has had nothing to do with COVID-19.
After finding out it was ranked No. 1 in Class 1-A to start last week, Triton swarmed Culver last Thursday, only to lose three in a row heading into Thursday’s tilt with backyard rival Tippecanoe Valley. The Trojans may have got its Staples Buttons out, because the team reset itself in a 3-0 win at the Trojan Trench.
“Our team is very, very up and down, and I was happy we were ranked last week, but not No. 1,” said Triton head coach Derek Eveland, whose team dropped out of the top five after losses to Culver Academy and Goshen over the weekend. “I thought being ranked that high would have given them even more confidence, but I think the pressure got to them a little too much.”
That pressure looked like it was burdening Valley as the visitors fell behind 5-0 in game one, and really the team didn’t recover the rest of the night. In what became a trend of the matchup, Valley would pull back and trail just 11-10, but Triton would rattle off five straight to get some distance. Valley would get five more points, then come all the way back to lead 24-23 on a Triton attack error, but close with three straight unforced errors to give the game to the Trojans 26-24.
“We made some really crucial serving errors toward the end of games one and two,” noted Valley head coach Doug West. “We make a few of those and it’s a different story, and the pressure is now all on Triton. But critical serving errors, and we didn’t win the long rallies either.”
Delaney Wagner had a huge kill in game two, giving Valley a 19-18 lead, but another pair of errors put Triton back up. The Trojan front line would then put the squeeze on the smaller Valley netminders as Lexia Hostrawser had a block, then Madeline Doll hammered a kill as Triton would eventually claim a 25-23 win.
Abbey Viers really asserted herself in game three, getting involved in over half of Triton’s points. Her nine kills in the match led the team while Hostrawser finished with five points as Triton closed out its rivals 25-17 in game three.
“We just came ready to play today,” said Eveland, who spent several years coaching with West at Plymouth High School. “I just told our girls to go out and play hard. Valley is a quality team, and that’s what we saw with these past three losses. I just wanted to see the girls compete and have fun like they’ve been doing.”
Molly McFarland was all over the place defensively for Triton, playing an inspired libero that yielded 20 digs, but her positioning likely forced Valley away from her and into more clogged attacking situations. Viers and Doll combined for eight blocks and Emma Hepler sent up 18 assists in the win.
Valley, which entered the night winners of five straight, had Wagoner pound down 12 kills while Bree Sheetz added nine kills. Hannah Engstrand had 25 assists and the combo of Wagoner and Brayden Baney accounted for 29 digs.
“We’ve been playing some good volleyball and we came here ready to play, it just didn’t go our way,” offered West.
Mallory Bowers had nine kills and both Macy Kirchenstien and Emily McGriff had five aces in a 25-23, 25-16 Valley win in the JV contest. Triton did not issue JV stats.
Triton (7-4) will host its home tournament on Saturday while Valley (5-3) will visit Columbia City on Monday.