By Mike Deak
AKRON – There was no time like the present for head coach Ashley Derf and her Tippecanoe Valley volleyball coaching staff to throw some new kids in the mix. With North Miami sputtering out of the gate, plenty of the bench saw action in a quick 3-0 victory Tuesday night.
After about 10 points of the first game, Derf began glancing down her bench and starting to shuffle the lineups in her head. As her team held a 13-5 lead, Derf turned to her assistants and started working the combinations. At first it was Maddie Thompson to get some work at the net, and Emma Patrick started getting some looks on the outside. Mackaylie Costello also saw a few plays as did Avery Wagoner, as the ‘nines’ on the varsity roster were now playing with the big club.
A 25-11 game one win for the host Vikings had Patrick and Wagoner both record aces.
“The higher speed, tempo, faster, harder balls. When you go from middle to high school, it’s a bigger jump,” noted Derf of her freshmen getting some varsity time against the Warriors. “We pulled them up in the summer. It takes time, it really does. They are getting there. They are learning. We always tell them stop acting like a freshman, so they are doing it.”
For all the figuring and formulating that Valley enjoyed the freedom of doing in the first game, game two was much different. Sloppy was a word bandied about as the lead didn’t vary much further than two for most of the frame, several serves into the net and uncontested points hit out-of-bounds didn’t provide much wiggle room for momentum.
As the two teams approached the 20-point mark, Valley went on a mini run, scoring three of four points, and enjoyed a big kill from Costello to take a 24-18 lead, quickly a 25-19 game two win.
Valley closed the door at 25-17 in the third, most of its starters on the bench watching the future of the program get some seasoning. In a week where Tippecanoe Valley High School is in virtual learning to expunge some COVID issues within its brethren, Derf was happy to see her kids get a little rhythm Tuesday after the long holiday weekend. Also sitting at 4-0 in the Three Rivers Conference, a win is a win is a win.
“It was the energy, we didn’t come out with the fire like we did last week, but we also were trying a couple things,” Derf said. “We were trying to hit some of those serves that I know as a team we just can’t hit at practice, we were trying to hit them in the game. This was a team we can try to do that with. Some of it worked, some of it didn’t.”
With Valley using a dozen players Tuesday, stats were lighter than usual. Costello and Mallory Durkes each led the team with four kills, Durkes getting a couple good whips of the ball later in the match. Macy Kirchenstien had just nine assists, but only played a little over half the match, giving way to Abby Koch assisting on four points. Karli Hogue and Brayden Baney combined for five aces and Baney led the defense with 11 digs.
Valley, moving to 8-2 overall, will ramp up its schedule with seven matches in 11 days, beginning Thursday in hosting Triton. Derf hopes Tuesday’s showcase for her squad can turn into a momentum builder for the upcoming busy bees.
“The girls know, I can give them a look and they know coach is serious, ‘I need to dig down deep’,” Derf said. “It’s tough. At the beginning of the season we go heavy, heavy. Then we have a little bit of a break and then we go heavy again. The girls know that’s coming.”
JV ball went to Valley in a 25-17, 25-21 final. Wagoner had four aces, four digs, three kills and a block and Patrick added three kills and a block in the win.