La PORTE — Every year it seems like La Porte and New Prairie face off in the La Porte Volleyball Invitational final.
This season was no different.
In the end, the Slicers used a total team effort to defeat the county nemesis Cougars in two games for the title, 25-16, 25-18, on Saturday.
La Porte captured all four of its matches on the day in two games.
“We worked really well together and we were just confident in our play,” the Slicers’ Kara Cooper said.
The victory in the championship match capped a perfect 4-0 day for La Porte, who stayed undefeated early in the season at 6-0.
The loss for New Prairie, meanwhile, meant it finished with a 3-1 record in the invite. The Cougars are now 4-2 overall.
“At the beginning of the day, we lacked a little bit of energy we found later on,” Cougars’ coach Jordan Staus said. “I don’t want to say we necessarily got tired throughout the day, but you’re playing enough games in a row that you start to lose your spunk a little bit. But there were situations during play where we just got comfortable.”
The Slicers took control rather quickly in Game 1, scoring six straight points to erase an early 3-1 deficit.
That permitted them to go ahead 7-3. From there, the lead never dropped below two. La Porte’s Reilly Briggs, Cooper, and Lexi Joyner were pivotal offensively, helping their team pull away. The Slicers’ biggest advantage of that game was 10, when the score was 24-14. They won the opening game, 25-16, after Paige Conklin’s tip.
The second game was 7-6 La Porte, before it took command. It pounced on New Prairie miscues and used Briggs and Cooper’s stalwart net play to build a 12-6 cushion. Gillian Santana’s serving was also excellent late in that game, as she earned three aces in the final 15 points. The Slicers went ahead as many as 13, when it was 24-11, but the Cougars clawed back and cut the deficit to as close as six, 24-18. Elise Swistek was crucial offensively for New Prairie in that spurt. But La Porte sealed the game and the match following Briggs’ kill, 25-18.
“We just came to play,” Slicers coach Cassie Holmquest said. “The girls were excited about today. They’ve been working hard in practice, and it’s kind of a nice tournament to start out with.”
Cooper was named La Porte’s MVP on the day.
“My blocking was pretty good today,” Cooper said. “And Paige (Conklin) set me really well, so I could get some nice kills.”
In addition to Cooper, Briggs was effective at the net in the final, while Santana shined in the back row.
“Kara (Cooper) stood out,” Holmquest said. “She almost hit 100 percent, so she did really well today. Her blocking was really good today. Reilly (Briggs) played well. Gillian (Santana) played well. They all played well today.”
On the other side, Swistek was tabbed New Prairie’s MVP.
“I would definitely say our outside hitter, Elise Swistek stood out,” Staus said. “She’s an all-around player. She makes big plays for us, big digs when we need it. And then also, Katie Hancock, our middle blocker. We actually just started playing her all the way around. And it’s been a huge improvement in the back row. And then, she gets a ton of blocks for us in the front row, and hits as well.”
The Cougars’ Katie Hancock was also reliable blocking in the middle of Game 2.
Briggs guided the Slicers with 11 kills in the final, and Cooper and Joyner both had five kills. Cooper tallied four solo blocks, while Santana notched 14 digs and three aces. Conklin had 15 assists and seven digs.
Swistek led the Cougars with 12 digs and seven kills, and Hancock had five digs, four kills and three solo blocks. Sarah Fronk added 12 assists.
In pool play, La Porte beat Washington Township 25-7, 25-18, and defeated Kankakee Valley 25-14, 25-8.
In its pool, New Prairie downed Hanover Central 25-12, 25-23, and prevailed over Goshen, 25-23, 22-25, 15-8.
In the semifinals of the championship flight, the Slicers won 25-14, 25-15 over Huntington North, while the Cougars dispatched of Prairie Heights, 25-19, 25-14, in the other semifinal of the championship flight.