The Lady Tigers beat Alverno College 3-1 to take 5th place in the Moody Invitational over the weekend. This is the first time in 5 years a Grace Team has won a match in this tournament.
It started off tough with the Tigers facing the #3 ranked team in NCCAA Div. II, the Kentucky Christian University Knights. Using a new rotation adjustment the Tigers struggled in the first two sets but in the third found their rhythm and led 20-18 before losing 21-25. “We probably defended against the two best middle hitters in the nation,” Coach Spooner noted. “Maybe that’s why we had 55 digs and only 10 blocks. They just teed off on our back row who played quite well considering I changed rotations right before game time.”
In the second match the Tigers expected better play and results, yet found themselves facing an old nemesis once again; attack and serving errors. “You can’t have 19 attack errors against a team as well coached and experienced like Northland and compete. We started the match leading 14-5 in the first set but then Northland served five straight points and mentally we couldn’t get back into the match.” Coach Spooner noted at times the Tigers played very well but not with consistent energy throughout the match. “It was disappointing but I also realize with the rotation change and new personnel playing in different positions it will take time to adjust. I just felt we should’ve competed for every point harder. That’s my responsibility as a coach to make sure we are ready.”
The next morning the Tigers came back ready with renewed focus and energy. Taking on NCAA Div. III Alverno College out of Milwaukee, WI, the Tigers jumped out to an early lead in the first set only to fall behind 22-21. After siding out down 24-22, Senior Amanda Wall stepped up serving and with the team defense, pounded out an exciting 26-24 come from behind win. “That is exactly what a senior is supposed to do and for Amanda that was great focus, since she struggles at times serving the money ball. But not this time.” Coach Spooner said after the match.
That seemed to punch the wind out of Alverno as the Tigers won the next set 25-21. After losing the third set though Coach Spooner noted something different about the team. “When I came back to the team after the loss I was going to get on them about focus and the usual coach speech but noticed nobody was down or discouraged, as a matter of fact there was this positive energy and attitude quite refreshing. So I just told them to just focus on winning the game to 5 points until it was over.” And the Tigers did just that dominating that fourth set 25-15. “We had the most balanced offense yet this year with Laura setting 5 players with four of more attacks.” Coach Spooner said about his freshman setter. Laura Melton had 25 digs, 16 assists in the match. Joey Spooner had 7 kills, 8 solo blocks and 4 block assists with Naomi Kemper, Nichole Galbeiscek and Melton. Amanda Wall had 16 digs and 22 serves with 2 aces and only 3 service errors. Freshman Naomi Kemper was selected to the All-Tournament Team. “We had so many players that truly played at a higher level but Naomi did stand out with 45 digs for the tournament and 21 kills. She had 41 serve receives with only 5 errors. She is the best passer on the team and today was well deserving of that honor.” Coach Spooner said after the tournament. “I was very proud of the effort and focus the team had after losing to Northland the night before. Things really came together against Alverno and with such a young team we are truly finding ourselves more as a family and team.”
This next week finds the Tigers playing every other day, finishing the week again in the Chicago area with a tournament at Dayspring Bible College.