BOURBON — After Culver evened its Northern State Conference match with Triton at a game apiece Thursday, Lady Trojans volleyball coach Samantha Keel gave her players some sound advice: Put the ball where they’re not.
The simple but effective strategy proved successful, and Triton rattled off wins in the third and fourth games to put the visitors away 25-14, 22-25, 25-19, 25-16 for an NSC win at The Trojan Trench.
“Between (games) two and three it was more of we have to figure out where they’re not; i’s a placement thing for us,” said Keel. “Culver’s a very fundamental team so they play a basic defense, which means you’ve really got to aim for deep corners and you’ve got to go straight middle. It’s more of a strategic play when you play a basic, fundamental team. We really talked about putting things in the deep corners or right against the net in front of the 10-foot line. We had to basically put the ball right where they’re not.”
Culver struggled with early deficits as the Lady Cavaliers fell behind 5-0 and 4-0 in the final two games, and while they recovered from those slow starts, the visitors were never quite able to swing the momentum in their favor.
“Right before that fourth game started I told the girls we can’t let a team get up four or five points because once they do it’s hard for us to get back in the game,” said Culver coach Amanda Minix. “Our big thing right now is serve receive, and just like I told them in the locker room after the match, we’ve got to utilize our big hitters. We’ve got some girls that can get up and hit the ball, and we’re doing too much just rolling it over, tipping it over. We’ve got to utilize what we have to be able to hit. But before, we have to start with a pass on a serve receive or on a hit from them, they’ve got to pass the ball up to the setter.”
Triton benefitted from an accurate service game and was powered by senior middle hitter Shana Anderson’s 13 kills with two blocks and an ace in the win. Marissa Ross dished out 31 assists, and Emilee Koontz finished with 10 digs while Krystal Sellers passed out eight.
“The nice thing about Shana Anderson is that even though she’s a middle blocker — Triton’s kind of been down on numbers in the past and she had had to pass in the back row — I can basically ask her to do whatever whenever and she’ll look at me and say ‘OK,’” said Keel. “That’s exactly what she does; she just goes in and does it. A whale of an athlete, she plays basketball. Anything I ask her to do she does it. She’s very talented, and I couldn’t be more proud of her. She really does come up big for us when she needs to, and she’s a great vocal leader on the court.”
Culver was paced by junior Samantha Howard’s all-around match of seven kills, three aces, five assists, two blocks and 10 digs. First year sophomore Donna Zehner finished with seven kills and three blocks, meanwhile.
“Donna is actually a first-year player, so she’s still learning a lot of things. But I told her in the locker room ‘You’re a big girl.’ She can get up and hit the ball. They’re not going to stop her from a hit. She’s still learning quite a bit; we’re still on her every day,” said Minix.
“Of course Samantha, she’s an all-around player. She played a lot during the summer and that really has helped her see what the other team is doing, which I think helps the rest of them out on the court for her to see what the other team’s going to do and talk to our girls and let them know what’s going on.”
Triton moved to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in NSC play. Following last season’s disappointing conference finish, the Trojans have their sights set on a better result in 2012, and after three Northern State Conference matches, the team has already equalled its 2011 league win total.
“Our goal is to finish third or higher in the conference this year after finishing second-to-last last year. It seems like a big jump, but we definitely think it’s doable,” Keel said. “Culver is just another stepping stone for us. We don’t want to underestimate anyone. We look at the NSC as a very tough conference in volleyball right now, and we’re taking it one step at a time, so just to beat Culver is good.”
It’s a strong start in Keel’s first year at the helm of the Lady Trojans.
A former Triton player herself when the team claimed back-to-back regional championships in 2001-02 under longtime Trojans skipper Gayle Perry, Keel said she’s glad to be back.
“I did extremely well here at Triton and went to two state championships under Gayle Perry. I recently coached in the past at Whitko where I teach, and the varsity position was open, and it’s always been a dream to come home,” she said. “You want to see your program succeed like I did. If I can take them down one experience it would be a state championship. That could be years from now, I don’t know. I’m in it for as long as they’re in it. But right now all I’m asking is for improvement. It feels good to be home.”
“I’m just extremely proud of my girls,” Keel added. “I’ve asked them to do a lot; I’ve asked them to change their ways of play… so these seniors who’ve played a certain way and for me to come in their senior year and turn it upside down, they have adjusted extremely well. I think it’s finally in their head that yes we can win because the last few years have not been up to caliber that most people think that Triton volleyball should be at. To be 2-1 in the conference right now and 3-1 on the season is extremely exciting for us.”
Culver slipped to 5-4 on the year with the conference slate-opening loss at Triton. The Cavs are hoping they can recover some conference ground next week at home.
“Our conference is not an easy conference. New Prairie is going to be tough, they’ve got a new coach this year. Knox, they played a lot together this summer,” said Minix. “So our conference is a tough conference. We have to be able to get wins on the teams that we know that we can probably beat. This isn’t what we wanted to come out of here with. We’ve got Bremen next Thursday at home, so hopefully that’s going to be our first conference game at home, so hopefully… we can get a win there. We have to get wins during the conference that we know we can get.”
• TRITON 3,
CULVER COMMUNITY 1
(25-14, 22-25, 25-19, 25-16)
Kills: Shana Anderson 13
Aces: Anderson 1, Marissa Ross 1, Krystal Sellers 1
Assists: Ross 31
Blocks: Anderson 2, Breanna Lemler 2
Digs: Emilee Koontz 10, Sellers 8
Kills: Samantha Howard 7, Donna Zehner 7
Aces: Howard 3
Assists: Howard 5, Clare Hartman 5
Blocks: Zehner 3, Howard 2
Digs: Howard 10, Alex Baker 8
Records: Triton 3-1 (2-1 NSC), Culver 5-4 (0-1 NSC)