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Wolves pass gut check

August 17, 2018

NEW CARLISLE — Faced with its first adversity of the young volleyball season — a deficit and standout Emily Kinney battling dehydration — Michigan City found out a lot about itself Thursday against New Prairie, exemplifying its ‘Whatever It Takes’ Motto to extract a four-game win (20-25, 25-22, 25-15, 25-18) over the Cougars.

“You never know what’s going to happen in a game,” said Reece Shirley, whose 10 kills, 12 assists and 17 digs keyed the Wolves. “You always have to be ready and up for the challenge. We’ve got a young team, so we try to be really flexible. The players on the bench are ready to come in at any time and we showed the leadership when we had to.”

New Prairie took the opening game 25-20 and Kinney was off the floor for game two. Katie Swistek, playing against her cousin Elise, a talented sophomore for the Cougars, stepped in for Shirley, and the Wolves rebounded to get back to even.

“There wasn’t a better team defensively than New Prairie in that first game,” M.C. coach TR Harlan said. “They must’ve had 10 one-arm saves on balls that were going to be kills. Our challenge was to not give in. Katie stepped in and steadied the ship. That’s two years in a row she’s made a difference against New Prairie. She doesn’t get a lot of playing time but in three years she’s never failed to deliver.”

City seized the momentum to take game three, breaking away at 10-9 and closing out with the last five points.

“Clearly, after game one, we missed quite a few serves and had a few mental lapses,” Cougars coach Jordan Staus said. “We weren’t focused 100 percent. I think with some of them it’s being young and not having been in a big game. For parts of the team, there was good energy but we need it throughout from everyone on the floor. Elise is obviously a great outside hitter but we can’t depend on just one person.”

Michgan City closed out the win in the fourth, using a five-point run to erase a 16-14 deficit.

“I thought we really grew up a lot,” Harlan said. “We’re relying heavily on four sophomores. You never really know what you’re going to get and they passed with flying colors, and we had great leadership. We made a couple adjustments to control Elise, but mainly it was just go play hard. Obviously, having Emily back in makes a big difference with her offense and blocking. It’s going to be different roles with different kids on different nights.”

Swistek had 10 kills and 15 digs for the Cougars (1-1) with Katie Hancock connecting on seven winners. Cali Salat came up with 16 digs.

“There’s always positives in everything,” Staus said. “I definitely liked how we ran the middle.”

Kinney posted nine kills and Samantha Flores had six for the Wolves. Alexa Sparks posted 13 and three aces, while Micah Ruhe picked up 17 digs, one more than Kasey Halfacre.

“They’ve stepped up at practice,” Shirley said of the younger players. “We’re playing as a team. Now that they have more experience, they’ll be ready when it happens again.”

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