Better days ahead
MORGAN TOWNSHIP — There was a common message from both Marquette volleyball coach Matt Zima and Westville’s Dale Lake after both teams’ seasons ended Thursday night: the present hurts, but the future is bright.
“There’s been some turmoil in recent seasons, but in the two years since I’ve gotten here, I’ve seen so much progress from the girls,” Zima said. “We won the most games in a year this year since 2013. Our turnout numbers have been growing. We’ve got the girls to do some good things.”
Zima’s Blazers fell in straight sets to host Morgan Township in opening-round action of Sectional 49, 25-18, 25-10, 25-10, while Westville pushed 20-win Kouts to four sets, eventually falling, 25-20, 22-25, 25-16, 26-24 to the Fillies, setting up an all-Porter County Conference semifinal Saturday morning.
“It was heartbreaking. Kouts is a great team. We were evenly-matched, but hats off to them,” Lake said. “I’m a first-year coach and we went 18-11 and won a couple tournaments. I’m just so proud of the kids. We’re losing four great kids. They set such a good example for our program and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.”
Marquette said goodbye to four seniors — Abigail Henderson, Isabela Pachecho, Bri Moyer and Maggie Williams — while Ali Hisick, Cassie Janas, Kaylynn Popp and Emma Ray represented Westville’s quartet of seniors.
“The good thing is we’re such a young team and we have so much room to grow,” Zima said. “But it sucks losing a good group of seniors who took and accepted the leadership roles we gave them and we’re gonna miss them for sure. They’ve been through so much over their years here and for them to go out with a good season and good memories makes me feel better and I hope makes them feel better, too, because they deserve it.”
A teary-eyed Lake had similar thoughts about his seniors, saying, “They’re working the volleyball camps that we have from first grade all the way up to middle school. They’re helping give back to the program even more.”
The Blazers battled Morgan’s size on the outside early, but found themselves in a 11-5 hole out of the gate. After a timeout from Zima, the Blazers eventually closed the gap to 19-16, but a stout home side slammed the door shut, winning six of the next eight points to take the momentum and the set.
“I thought our week of preparation for Morgan was good,” Zima said. “We asked around a bit and got a little bit of scoop on what they like to do. For us, it was the little things. We have to get better at doing those little things in a match. Once we get better at that, we can really compete with the 3A and 4A teams we played this season, and even teams like Morgan, too.”
Morgan rolled in the next two games for the match sweep, while Westville fought valiantly against the Fillies, who snagged the first game in a tight one due in large part to some service errors from the Blackhawks. Set 2 saw the Blackhawks go from being 5-0 down right off the bat, then 12-7 later, and then forcing a timeout from Kouts in a 12-12 set.
“Our kids didn’t quit,” Lake said. “Every game was a battle. We had some issues, like some serving errors and such, but we didn’t give in. I’m just proud of the way our girls fought.”
The teams played to an 8-8 stalemale, forcing the second Westville timeout of the set. The Blackhawks took five of the next seven points with a bit of help from Kouts to even the match. Kouts bounced back with a stellar performance in Set 3 and facing a 23-18 deficit in Set 4, the Blackhawks went on a 5-0 run out of nowhere to even the set. The Fillies snagged three of the next four points to take the match.
“I’m hoping this season means we can build something from the ground up,” Lake said. “Hopefully we can get the younger kids involved more with middle school tournaments, middle school leagues, high school leagues and JV leagues as well. We’re really trying to build something. We’re really excited for the program and I’m really hoping that we can do some good things.”