Slicers share the wealth
Like a quarterback with an arsenal of good receivers, a volleyball setter loves having plenty of options.
“You want to have a lot of good hitters,” La Porte sophomore Paige Conklin said. “You know if someone makes an error, you can rely on someone else.”
The Slicers setter kept everybody happy Tuesday at the Wolves Den, sharing the love, a.k.a. the ball, with her seemingly endless array of attackers in a 31-29, 25-16, 25-22 Duneland Athletic Conference sweep of Michigan City.
“I think it was setting more people that don’t hit as much,” Conklin said. “It’s like Reilly (Briggs) has the most kills, so I try to stay away from her sometimes.”
Conklin amassed 37 assists with Briggs connecting on 14 kills. The Slicers (22-3, 10-0) also picked up 10 from freshman Aniya Kennedy and six from Annalise Warnock in the three-game victory.
“She’s a very smart player,” LP coach Cassie Holmquest said of Conklin. “She does a really job of setting against the flow. She’s a very good middle setter as well. We run middle a lot, which teams don’t do as much. We don’t overuse one person too much. We try to spread it out.”
City seized the momentum of the home floor, closing in on a game one win before the Slicers rallied from five down to lead 23-22. They ultimately took the marathon game 31-29 in their closest DAC set of the season.
“We got all the jitters out and were ready to come back,” Conklin said.
Three blocks, among 17 La Porte had in the match, in the comeback sequence turned the tide.
“They came out really strong, as we thought they would, especially at home,” Holmquest said. “We did really well blocking. I feel that really turned us around. It shifted the momentum. We didn’t really do anything differently. I thought (City’s Hannah Noveroske) would play right side and she pretty much did. We practice a little bit more than we normally do (Monday) on blocking right side, so we were ready in that regard. We knew she’d hit some good balls and take up some space, blocking-wise, which she did, but we just really focused on what we were doing.”
Kara Cooper, playing in her first match since sustaining a pre-game injury last week, had five blocks and Kennedy three.
“Laterally, I thought she looked good,” Holmquest said of Cooper. “Her blocking looked good.”
La Porte broke away from a 9-9 tie to control game two and prevailed thanks to a late push in a back-and-forth third game.
“Both teams used so much energy at the end of game, one, game two, neither team had a lot of energy, they’re just better,” M.C. coach TR Harlan said. “We have to match energy. If we don’t, we’re in trouble. If we don’t pass well, everybody knows where the ball is going. That’s the problem we’ve had all year. We’re really easy to figure, especially in game two. If we make one mistake, we make four, and it’s never the same kid. Cooper changes everything they do, blocking-wise. She’s just so long. We try to keep the ball away from Gillian (Santana). If she touches the ball, that’s bad for us. We don’t get a lot of kills on that side of the court.”
Santana had 21 digs for La Porte with Olivia Voelker adding 11.
“They don’t have a 6-4 kid but they have an Aniya who can jump over everybody and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Harlan said. “I was really proud how we came out and fourth the third game. We could’ve easily gotten rolled. That had 25-10 written all over it. It shows me we’re capable of what I think we’re capable of.”
Noveroske had 13 kills and Reece Shirley 10 for City (20-6, 5-5). Emily Kinney posted 21 assists and Alexa Sparks 16 digs, two more than Shirley.
“I thought Sparks played really well in her first big match at libero,” Harlan said. “Sam (Flores) played really well. Kasey (Halfacre) played well in the back row. We did all we can do. All I ask is they give us a chance and we had a chance. If La Porte wins, they were supposed to. If we win, it’s, how in the hell did they beat ’em? We took a big step forward even though we lost.”