Dunbar, WI- Going into the last weekend of the regular season Coach Spooner was looking for some answers in the wake of Nichole Galbiscek’s season ending injury. “It’s obviously tough to lose Nichole, but we’ve got to find a way to play even more as a team. We’ve made changes in rotations and substitution patterns so this is a much needed weekend to work out some of those kinks.”
In the first match against Mt. Mary, those kinks found their way into areas the Tigers are usually strong in; serve receive and passing. Behind consistent serving and solid attacks Mt. Mary defeated the Tigers in 3 sets. 13-25; 19-25; 21-25. The bright spot was seeing improvement in each set. “We just need to settle down and play volleyball, not thinking about injured players or other distractions. Just play and enjoy the game.” Coach Spooner said after the match. “Mt. Mary is well coached and having their best year is school history and was a great set-up for the second match with Northland.”
In that second match the Tigers started off sluggish losing the first set 14-25. “Northland is one of the best coached teams in the nation. They get after every ball and are the most cerebral serving team we play. Since they are going to be our first round opponent in the regional tournament next weekend, I was hoping we’d play with more focus and energy.” A disappointed Coach Spooner said.
The Tigers came out though in the second set with exactly the energy needed winning 25-23. Solid serving with 3 aces by Joee Spooner and a more patient, deliberate attack on offense was a major difference. Coach Spooner noted something else, “When we pass the ball well, in my opinion we have one of the best setters in the region with Shelby Jamieson. Naomi, Jessica, Britteny and Tabitha are absolute keys to our passing and offense. When they are getting their feet to the ball, we are most effective.”
But old habits die hard as in the third and fourth set’s the Tigers found themselves deep in a hole each set trying to fight back; losing 12-25; 18-25.
“We will watch some game tape, make some adjustments and come back the next two matches hopefully better prepared and ready to play.” Coach Spooner said leaving Northland’s gym. “We play Northland again in the morning and then ACCA foe Emmaus Bible College who beat us earlier in the year. That match will be critical for ACCA National tournament seeding.”
In that first match of the day, the Tigers came out listless and flat. With the same pattern of getting behind early and then trying to come back the Tigers fell to Northland in 3 straight sets: 18-25; 14-25; 18-25. “It’s true in volleyball losing a player affects a great many aspects of play on the floor but not lack of hustle and feet glued down hoping someone else makes the play. I have got to find a way as coach to make sure that changes and be better prepared to start strong.” Coach Spooner noted!
The bright spot for the Tigers was new outside hitter Rayna DoBrodt who along with Joee Spooner led the Tigers in kills with 6. “Rayna has done a great job shifting from right side to left side in Nichole’s absence. It is a major switch and she is filling in very nicely. I encouraged seeing that improvement.” Coach Spooner.
In the final match of the regular season the Tigers faced a team they likely will see again at the ACCA National Tournament and lost too earlier in the year. “This will be a major test for us at this point in the season. Emmaus beat us in 5 sets and are well coached with a senior ACCA All-American middle who is their best all-around player. We need to step up and find ourselves in this last match.” A hopeful Coach Spooner noted before the match.
And stepping up at the right time was how the Tigers finally started to pull things together. The first set was back and forth in momentum changes but excellent front row play pulled out the win 25-23. The same held true in the second set as both teams looked for ways to establish their strengths. Emmaus won 25-23 on a service ace knotting the set score at 1-1.
“Those are usually the type of errors our youthfulness can’t get over. We tend to carry it into the next set. For us to get to a higher level of confidence we have to accept it and move on. That takes a team unified with encouragement for each other.” Coach Spooner noted before a pivotal third set. And coming out on fire the Tigers got outstanding serving from Naomi Kemper, Shelby Jamieson and Joee Spooner getting 8 of a match high 17 aces shutting down Emmaus’s passing and offensive attack winning 25-9. “That was a strong display of playing every point and within the context of who we are as a team. We found some energy, fun and ourselves within that set. Now the biggest key would be our performance in the fourth set.” Coach Spooner said.
Emmaus bounced back in the fourth set again behind their All-American hitter and strong serving themselves. Down 18-21, using his last time Coach Spooner urged the team to not give up this set and find a way to pull together. “It was absolutely critical keeping their great hitter in the back row. We have to know our strong rotations and push points. This was a major turning point in this match. We didn’t want to get to a fifth set.”
With a renewed sense of energy and determination the Tigers pulled ahead 23-22 and keeping serve won the match 3-1, winning the 4th set 25-22. “This was a good win for us. We are starting to gain some confidence with the changes made after Nichole’s injury and I’m looking forward now to the new season of tournament play. It’s not a cliche to honestly believe anything can happen. Especially with this team.” A encouraged Coach Spooner said after the match.
Rayna DoBrodt and Joee Spooner led the offensive attack with 11 kills each, Naomi Kemper had 9. Naomi was aggressive in serving 7 aces along with her defensive play of 21 digs. Jessica Ryan led the team in defensive digs with 23. Shelby Jamieson had 28 assists along with 20 digs and 5 aces. Tiger blocking was especially effective coming up with 9 total, Joee getting 5 of those.
The Tigers seeded 5th in the region will play Northland International this Friday at 10:30 AM, in Lansing, MI.