Dubuque, IA- The Tigers traveled Saturday for a triangular match with Emmaus Bible College and Oak Hills Christian College. “Both of these schools are ACCA affiliated and Emmaus took last years National Champions Barclay college to 5 sets before losing. Emmaus will be a good challenge for us in continuing to find ourselves as a team. Coach Neil Pitman has done a great job in only his second year with this program and they are led on the floor by two Senior ACCA All-Americans.” Coach Spooner said before the first match against Oak Hills.
In that match the Tigers overwhelmed the Oak Hills team from northern Minnesota winning 25-13; 25-18; 25-12. “Oak Hills has only had a program for four years and I admire their on court attitude, willingness to listen to their coach and working hard. This match allowed us to give other players good time on court and rest Naomi Kemper who had been sick all weekend.” Coach Spooner said after the match. The Tigers serving strength once again showed with a season high of 20 aces, led by freshman Shelby Jamieson, (Wayland HS; Wayland, MI.) with 9 aces and also leading the team with 9 digs. Naomi Kemper, (Hudsonville HS; Hudsonville, MI) and Joee Spooner, (Rogers HS; Wyoming, MI) led the Tigers with 6 kills each.
Against the home team Emmaus the Tigers found themselves in a familiar position after the second set. “I’ve got to do a better job of getting these ladies ready to play right from the start. We get down in a hole and have to fight our way out too much this year. It’s not really the physical toll that takes but more of an emotional roller coaster hard to sustain throughout a match.” Coach Spooner said after the first set. The Tigers were down quickly 16-7; 19-12 and 22-18 before losing 24-26. Emmaus senior All-Americans Hannah Denny and Kristi Bracelin dominated at the net.
The second set was much the same although the Tigers rallied earlier before losing 25-21. “We just didn’t seem to have the energy and enthusiasm to play like we had in our win the night before over Dayspring. I don’t think we were tired but volleyball is such an emotional sport yet still requires a stability of concentration and consistent focus with visible energy. Our on court countenance showed defeat at times. That has to change if we are to get any better.” Coach Spooner noted after the match. Down 9-7 Coach Spooner used a time out in a most peculiar situation. “We had just let a ball drop in the middle of the floor with four players just watching it go down. I needed to calmly remind the team that’s not Tiger volleyball and to make a decision right here and right now what they wanted to do the rest of the match”
With better focus and enthusiasm generated by libero Jessica Ryan, (Hopkins HS; Hopkins, MI) back from her shoulder injury, the Tigers found themselves coming from behind and winning that third set in dominating fashion 25-17. “Our hitting and serving was outstanding through out the last sets of this match. We just need to continue to do the small things that win each point.” A noticeably more relaxed Coach Spooner said after that set.
In the fourth set, the Tigers never slowed down staying focused and began to find ways in blocking the hitting attack of Emmaus senior’s. Behind balanced attacking from Nichole Galbiscek, Naomi, Joee, Leslie Pumford and superior defense covering hitters the Tigers won the fourth set 25-18.
Reminding the players now going into their fourth 5 set match of the year, what it takes to pull out the win Coach Spooner was very optimistic about the outcome. “We started to play together more as a team and found some fun in the game. This is a great sport rewarding efforts with a win in a set to give you a chance to win a match. We need to maintain our confidence and play to win every point.”
But Emmaus found some unexpected help from other hitters and the Tigers were down quickly at the side exchange; 8-5. Then down 8-12, the Tigers once again showed focus and poise for such a young team storming back to take a 13-12 lead. Emmaus wouldn’t quit either and a big kill by Bracelin tied the set at 14-14. A net serve that dropped over for a point, followed by the same thing from an attack hitting the net and falling in front of a sprawling Tiger defender put the Tigers down 16-15 then losing 17-15. “I’m very proud of our effort in coming back down 0-2. We didn’t quit and Emmaus beat us with an even greater effort on their part. They are a well coached and much improved team that made the right adjustments at the right time. We look forward to our rematch in October up in Northland.” Junior Joee Spooner when asked about the team effort noted, “We didn’t quit and found a way to get back into the match. I love this team and how we work together so well. We just have to start with more energy and focus.”
The Tigers even though losing found some highlight of encouragement. “We had only two errors out of 79 serves. We had a season high 54 kills and only 14 errors. What is most encouraging is our improvement we show after working hard in practice on these things. We just have to find more time for other areas now to work on.” Coach Spooner said after the match.
Joee led the way on the front line with 17 kills, 4 solo blocks and one ace. Sophomore Naomi Kemper, coming off flu like symptoms had 16 kills and 19 digs. Shelby Jamieson, had 39 assists, 6 aces and 15 digs. “Shelby has truly found her way into the joy of setting. She was well coached in high school as a libero and as such already has a great feel for the ball. As coach I appreciate her ability to distribute the ball with intelligence to the right hitter at the right time. That’s another reason our attack % has improved so much this year.” Coach Spooner said in giving high praise to the young freshman.
The Tigers will host a powerful Marygrove team in their home opener Monday night at 6:00. Come out and support Tiger volleyball.