Lake Zurich, IL: After such a disappointing match Tuesday Coach Spooner was anxious to see how the team would respond in the rematch with Dayspring Bible College. “We had two good practices with the full team, so I felt we were ready but not completely sure how we’d respond. Dayspring is well coached and one of the scrappiest teams we play. We lost to them in straight sets the first weekend of the year, so we knew they would be tough again.”
And looking at the first set score it seemed like the Tigers were on their way to another disappointing effort losing 25-12. “We tried to be too aggressive with our offense and not getting to our base on defense.” Coach Spooner said after the match. “Before the match the ladies had said the key would be consistent energy. Going into the second set we made some minor adjustments and strongly emphasized some major basics.”
In that second set the Tigers found themselves down 22-19 but roared back to 23-23 behind stellar hitting by junior middle hitter, Joee Spooner (Rogers H.S.;Wyoming, MI) and great serving by the entire team. Then at 24-24, junior Tabitha Ryan (Hopkins HS; Hopkins, MI) served an ace and a kill by Nichole Galbescek gave the Tigers a come from behind 26-24 win. “Without question our intensity and energy went up a notch and the ladies started to find themselves as a team. When we play in the context of who we are, we are very dangerous.” Coach Spooner noted.
The third set was much more competitive with neither team going up by more than 5 until Dayspring won 25-19. “Once again we tried to do things out of who we are and got caught several times on our heels. Against a very aggresive team like Dayspring they will make you pay.” Coach Spooner.
In the fourth set, perhaps for the first time this year the Tigers truly discovered their character as a team. Down 22-19, the Tiger heart found a steady and consistent beat. Sophomore Naomi Kemper, (Hudsonville HS, Hudsonville, MI) playing through flu like symptoms said, “We really played like a team, didn’t we coach!” Back and forth each team fought. Never quitting on the ball and finding ways to keep it alive both teams fought off set point after set point. It wasn’t until at 32-31 Naomi Kemper ended the epic battle with an ace serve. “I have never played in a set this long and so well.” Freshman setter Shelby Jamieson (Wayland HS, Wayland, MI) said. “This was a defining set for us as a team. It showed these ladies if you don’t quit and support each other what can happen. We truly came together as one and there is no team sport more poetic than volleyball when that happens.” A quiet and calm Coach said after the set. “There was a lot of courage on the floor with players sick and injured but as a team everyone stepped up and did their best in support of each other.”
Often going into the 5th set there is a loss of concentration and getting behind early gave Dayspring Bible and the home crowd confidence as the teams exchanged sides with the Tigers being down 8-5. “What I saw though in their eyes was this determination not to quit. The energy of the players on the bench and those on the floor was of anticipation and excitement. Not one of desperation or panic. They just had this attitude of not giving up without fighting for every point.” Coach Spooner pointed out. And like the fourth set quickly the Tigers clawed back into the set tied at 12-12. At 13-13, Coach Spooner called a time out. “I promised the team when we got to match point I would not call a third time out like before against Northland. I think they were relieved and actually lightened up a pressure moment.”
Behind stellar serving and great hustle putting balls in play, Tabitha Ryan found herself in a familiar place. “Last year in the fifth set against Dayspring we had serve down 14-13, and Tabitha served into the net. She was devastated. I told her then that someday she’d be there again and it would be different.” Coach Spooner said later. This time up 16-15, Tabitha would served tough, Joee put down a kill off a great pass, set sequence, and the Tigers would win their first 5 set match this year. “I couldn’t have been more proud of this team and their denial of individual attitudes for the sake of the team. Honestly if we had lost, I would’ve felt the same but winning adds a higher dimension of fulfillment and lessons learned.” Coach Spooner said after the match. “It would take another post to point out each players contributions, from Shelby’s intelligent setting of appropriate hitters, Naomi’s gutsy effort and the always stable libero Jessica Ryan, (Hopkins HS, Hopkins, MI) getting back into her comfort zone running the back of the court. Joee was outstanding at the net with 4 solo blocks and 14 kills, but even more was her on court leadership and pushing teammates to never give up.”
Joee led the Tigers with 14 kills, with Nichole and Naomi at 9 kills each. Shelby playing her most cerebral match of the year had 29 assists, 1 ace and 10 digs. Jessica led the team in digs with 27, and Naomi with 21. Even more impressive was Jessica and Naomi combining for 50 serve receptions with only 3 errors. “Our serving and serve receive was outstanding tonight. It really was the difference in the match. Only 3 service errors out of 85 and 5 receive errors out of 59 attempt is tremendous.” Coach Spooner pointed out. “What was also important to the team was the supportive roles of Brittany Ramirez, (Lowell HS, Lowell, MI), Rayna DoBrodt with five kills, and Leslie Pumford who served for Jessica Ryan 17 times with no errors. “The deal we made with the physical therapist so Jessica could play was no back row attacks or serves. Leslie stepped up to that challenge like the rest of her teammates.” Coach Spooner in noting the entire teams contribution. “Even the players who didn’t get into the match were focused and supportive every time someone came out of rotation.”
The Tigers now will play Emmaus Bible College, another tough ACCA opponent on Saturday. “I’m excited to see how we step up to this challenge. It was a great win tonight but tomorrow starts another day.” Coach Spooner noted with anticipation!