By Mike Deak
CULVER – If the first five minutes were an indication of how life would be for the two sides, life repeated itself often.
Triton made a quick spurt out of the gate to open the Class 1-A Culver Volleyball Regional, but Kouts answered early and often, eventually putting an end to the Trojans’ season with a 3-0 semi-final victory Saturday morning.
Triton opened with three quick points, only for Kouts to score seven of the next 10. That continued on for the Fillies, which had its big hitters, Makenzie Martin and Sophia Foster, get the grease on the wheels. An ace from Foster and a huge hammer from Martin punctuated a 25-13 first set.
Errors were beginning to pile up for Triton, and they would come in bunches. After Abbey Viers tipped into space to tie game two at 19, three straight Trojan errors put Triton up against it, and another service error put Triton down 23-21, enough for Foster to drill a pair of kills to close out game two, 25-21.
“We fought really hard to get back in it and then we just made our own errors,” said Triton head coach Derek Eveland. “That’s the sign of a good team in Kouts, they didn’t make those mistakes like we did. They have a couple really good scorers and they put the ball in play. As soon as they got the feeling they were on top of you, they start to freely swing and they looked really comfortable. That’s a well-coached team, great team.”
While Kouts was swinging and digging on nearly every possession, Triton never seemed to get out of first gear. Neither Abbey or Addyson Viers got established at the net, Lexia Hostrawser didn’t get a solid swing in until game three, and more than two dozen Triton attacks came from off the net, to which Kouts was waiting. The trio of Triton hitters combined for just 20 combined kills.
”We’ve got to learn the fine line between overly aggressive and advanced smart,” Eveland said. “If I tell them to be smart, they go way soft, and if they are told to be aggressive, they become very tentative.”
Triton led 11-6 in game three, then 17-11, but quickly found itself tied at 18 after a pair of self-inflicted errors. An eventual 25-22 capper in game three put a sudden and stinging end to the Triton season, leaving a shocked set of eight seniors left wondering what happened. Several were still crouched over on the court long after the gym began to clear.
“It’s really tough when you get a group of seniors who have a certain way they play,” ushered Eveland. “The teams we could dominate we did, but when it came down to finishing stuff, they just kind of fall into a mode. We saw it early in the year, thought we had gotten rid of it. We did not look like the team that had been to regionals three times in the last four years.”
Molly McFarland and Emma Hepler had their careers also come to a close, McFarland recording a team-leading 13 digs and Hepler had 21 assists.
Triton closes its season 24-11 while Kouts (24-5) moves on to the sectional final, where it will get Pioneer (27-3), which got everything it could handle from Lakewood Park. LPC opened by barnstorming the defending regional champion Pioneer with wins in the first two sets, but Pioneer came roaring back to tie the match at two, then won an emotional fifth set, 15-12. LPC admirably bows out at 13-11 overall.