By Dalton Tinklenberg
AKRON – The Tippecanoe Valley Lady Vikings volleyball team hosted the Marion Lady Giants Tuesday night. After an impressive 2-0 win for the Valley junior varsity team, the Varsity squad continued the show, winning the match 3-0.
Coming into the night, the Lady Giants had lost nine of their previous 11 matchups and held an overall record of just 6-12. The Lady Vikings were facing their own struggles, having dropped an airtight non-conference game at Oak Hill on Monday.
The festivities began with an emotional send-off ode to the Tippecanoe Valley seniors. That emotion may have knocked the Lady Vikings out of rhythm as they looked dazed to start the first set. Marion fought out of the gate and had the score tied at eight apiece before a quick Valley timeout.
“We just basically told them to play at our level, not theirs,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Ashley Derf. “We had to get aggressive with our serving, hits, ball placements, and we did.”
That they did. The Lady Vikings stormed out of the timeout and looked like world-beaters, going on a 17-4 run to win the first set, 25-12.
Valley was able to continue the momentum into the second set. While the Lady Giants were much more competitive this time around, they were never able to hold a lead, Valley controlled the pace and won the second set by a score of 25-18.
The third set was arguably the most intriguing of the night as Marion battled all the way to the finish. The set even included some crowd interaction from both sides as the Valley cheer block traded chants with the Marion visitors. One cheer block member appeared to get under the skin of Marion’s Kamaria Bruton. The student yelled “scoreboard” and referenced Bruton’s glasses after several plays. To her credit, Bruton seemed to thrive on the back and forth as she gave it back as good as she got. The Lady Vikings ultimately claimed the set, 25-19.
“Basically playing our game, playing at our level and not coming down to our opponent’s level,” said Derf when asked how her team held off the late effort from Marion.
Brayden Baney had 17 digs and three aces on the night while Mallory Durkes added four kills and five blocks in pacing the victory representing a pair of Valley’s senior class.
Next up for the Lady Vikings is a huge conference matchup Thursday at home against the Wabash Lady Apaches. The game carries massive implications for the Three Rivers Conference championship as both teams currently sit near the top of the standings, Valley tied atop the ledger with Southwood at 6-0 and Wabash at 5-1. Wabash will come in off a big win over Rochester in five sets on Tuesday night.
“Big game,” exclaimed Derf. “We have to go home and get some sleep tonight and hit practice hard tomorrow. We just have to focus on cleaning up a lot of our errors that we had tonight and last night. If we do that it should be a good game.”