Perfect champions

October 5, 2018

La PORTE — Over the course of the last six years, La Porte has had some stout volleyball teams.

But none accomplished what this season’s team did.

For the first time in six years, the Slicers claimed the arduous Duneland Athletic Conference title, winning the outright conference championship. What’s more remarkable is La Porte earned a perfect DAC record at 14-0.

While the Slicers cemented their outright crown with a home win against Valparaiso on Tuesday, they finished the conference slate undefeated by besting Lake Central in three games, 25-18, 25-13, 27-25, on Thursday on Senior Night at Slicer Gym.

“I thought the end of the conference season was really far away, but I always knew we could do it,” La Porte’s Reilly Briggs said of winning the undisputed DAC title and posting a 14-0 mark. “Because we work so hard and our coaches help us so much. So it was so possible. I definitely didn’t not see it coming. I thought we definitely had a chance.”

In the process of capturing the conference championship, the Slicers (25-3, 14-0 DAC) lost a mere handful of games.

“It’s really, really good,” La Porte coach Cassie Holmquest said of her DAC-title winning squad. “I don’t know if I thought this was possible at the start of the season. We just look at each match one day at a time. Obviously, this is the outcome we wanted.”

The Slicers avenged a loss to Lake Central (21-11, 8-6 DAC) in the Warsaw Invitational on September 22.

In the first game, La Porte gradually built a lead. Briggs and Kara Cooper were assertive hitting, aiding their team’s 8-4 start to force an Indians’ timeout.

“We just really trust Paige (Conklin) to give us good sets,” Cooper said. “We just want to get the team motivated and ready to go.”

La Porte never let the advantage drop below two the rest of that game, going ahead 13-6 en route to the 25-18 victory after Briggs’ kill.

The Slicers quickly took control at the start of the second game. They took a 6-1 cushion and were in command the rest of the way. They spread around the offense and sealed that game following a Lake Central spike sailed long. La Porte also had stalwart serving in Game 2, including back-to-back Gillian Santana aces to make it 19-11.

In the third game, the Slicers fell behind briefly 3-0, but reeled off seven straight points. Freshman Aniya Kennedy got into the offensive and Briggs continued to be reliable at the net. La Porte opened up a 19-13 lead, but the visitors rallied, tying it 20-20 and going ahead 21-20. The Slicers fended off two game points and eventually closed out Lake Central after Kennedy’s kill.

“We just came together and said, ‘We just had to get one pass and put the ball away,’” Santana said. “And that’s what we ended up doing.

“We’ve never won the DAC, so as seniors we wanted to step up and come out and win this match, so we could go undefeated in the DAC, besides winning the conference.”

Briggs guided the Slicers with 14 kills and 10 digs, while Santana had 22 digs and three aces. Cooper tallied 11 kills and Kennedy added eight. Annalise Warnock recorded 13 digs and six kills, while Conklin had 39 assists.

“She’s really calm under pressure,” Holmquest said of Santana. “She reads the hitter well. She lines up where she needs to line up.”

Prior to the varsity match, the Slicers recognized their three seniors, Santana, Briggs and Cooper.

La Porte’s junior varsity won 25-19, 25-17.

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