By Mike Deak
AKRON – Admittedly, Tippecanoe Valley head coach Ashley Derf couldn’t point to a definitive moment where her team played overwhelmingly well. But after the week her team had, she will take the 25-14, 25-19, 25-23 win over visiting West Noble Thursday evening.
“We really didn’t establish any real rhythm, any sort of take charge moment, but this was a good win for us at home,” stated Derf following her first home coaching win.
Aside from an abrupt 7-0 run in game one and closing out game three on a 12-4 run, much of the rest of the match between the two sectional rivals was played about even. But it was little moments that proved big for the Vikings.
Part of the game one run came off the heavy hand of Bree Sheetz, who had a trio of kills as Valley closed out the first frame in a contest that was tied at 11-all. Game two was just a one-point match at 20-19 before Ava Smith had a nice cross-court kill, followed by a sneaky setup from Macy Kirchenstien to Mallory Durkes as Valley scored the set’s final six points.
Game three had West Noble take advantage of some sloppy Valley passing, and a big block from Molly Jones at the point of attack had West Noble leading 19-13. Valley, however, broke West Noble’s serve and got the ball to Kirchenstien, who executed some precision serves to the ‘two zone’, which allotted four very easy points, very quickly, and got her team back in it.
After Jones scored another kill to make it 23-20 Chargers, three straight errors by the visitors tied the game up, and a Sheetz kill shifted momentum back to the hosts for the dagger.
“With Macy, she can go both short and deep on her serves, but we saw a spot where we wanted her to serve it and she did,” Derf said. “I can literally tell her where to put a ball and she can do it. That was a big sequence for us.”
Kirchenstien, also now saddled with full-time setting duties, had two aces to go with an unofficial 24 assists. Sheetz had 11 kills to lead the Vikings, countered with 14 combined winners from Durkes and Smith. Brayden Baney led the backline with six digs.
Week one has been a major adjustment period for Valley. After entering the season missing its all-time assists leader in Hannah Engstrand as well as some key offensive components, Valley started its season with a win at Argos, but fell 3-0 in consecutive days to Wawasee and Plymouth. A third match in three nights with West Noble in town became a mini ‘must-win’ for the weary Vikings.
“Gigi (Engstrand) is not here, and we love Gigi, but we have to move on with Macy, and let her do her job,” Derf said. “It’s just a matter of timing right now. She’ll learn our hitters and they’ll learn her placement. It’ll come.”
Continued Derf, “Wawasee was a sectional rival, and Plymouth, well, you always want to beat them. Neither of those worked out with wins, but those are behind us and West Noble was the new focus. They’re in our sectional, and honestly, we wanted to make a statement and play well. We have to show people in our sectional that we are a team to be ready for.”
JV action went to Valley in a 25-15, 25-20 result. Maddie Thompson led the Valley charge with four kills and a block, Avery Wagoner had three kills and two aces, and Mackaylie Costello added eight digs and an ace.