On to the sectional semis
MISHAWAKA — Early in the second game of Thursday night’s volleyball match, Jimtown’s hitters slammed four consecutive shots right at Katie Hancock, New Prairie’s middle blocker.
Hancock batted down each one for a score. Bam, bam, bam!
So, the obvious question becomes: Why would Jimtown do that?
“I don’t know, but I’m sure glad they did,” laughed Hancock, a junior who is one of the big reasons New Prairie survived the opening round of the Class 3A volleyball sectional at Mishawaka Marian High School.
“It was pretty nice,” she said.
With outside hitter Elise Swistek dominating from the corners and Hancock providing a defensive wall at the net, the Cougars won 25-20, 22-25, 25-12, 25-17.
Now, it’s on to Saturday’s sectional semifinals, where New Prairie (22-11) takes on South Bend Saint Joseph (26-6). Start time is 11 a.m. (CDT).
In Thursday’s first contest, Saint Joseph survived host Marian in a four-set classic that took almost two hours, 25-18, 25-18, 14-25, 29-27.
Because of Thursday’s first match, the starting time of New Prairie’s match was pushed back over an hour, which may have contributed to a case of nerves the young Cougars showed in the early going.
Jimtown led, 12-10, midway through the first game, before the Cougars went on a 6-0 run to take control. Hancock’s kill closed out a five-point victory.
In Game 2, New Prairie turned to committing errors, as the Jimmies rallied from a 6-0 deficit in the early going. The scored was knotted at 14, and it was still knotted at 22, before Jimtown scored the final three points. Isabel Ortega slammed home the game-winner.
“We have inexperience in the post-season world and I think we were showing some nerves,” said New Prairie coach Jordan Staus. “I told them (Cougar team), ‘Hey, it’s a normal game. Just have fun.’ We settled down after that.”
New Prairie also has a pair of dominant weapons in Hancock and Swistek, who simply took over Games 3 and 4.
Hancock finished the night with eight kills, six blocks, 18 digs and three aces. Swistek had 14 kills and 16 digs. Sarah Fronk made 18 assists.
“They are different positions and we switch them where they are opposite each other,” said Staus of her two big guns. “We form a triangle on the floor and say we want to run as much to them as we can.”
New Prairie opened a 14-8 lead midway through the third game, then cruised in for the win, with Ellie Michaels’ block closing it out. Game 4 was more of a challenge, but again, the Cougars were in control throughout.
“When (New Prairie) lost the second game, it just made me want to play harder,” said Hancock. “We can play better. We will have more energy on Saturday.”