CULVER — It’s never too late in the season to do a little team-building, especially with a new lineup.
After pulling freshman Jaela Meister up from the JV and moving players around in the lineup late in the season, Triton’s volleyball team took advantage of a day off before its Sectional 51 opener with South Central at Culver.
The Lady Trojans hung out, relaxed, even had lunch together.
That bonding time paid big dividends Tuesday night as Triton’s players gelled for a 25-23, 25-19, 25-22 sectional-opening win over the Satellites to advance to Saturday’s semifinals.
“We were really lucky today because Triton didn’t actually have a school day today with teacher inservice for parent-teacher conferences. We had talked about South Central, but I didn’t want them to be so focused on ‘We have to win, we have to win, we have to win,’ because we did get beaten by South Central earlier in the year. It was more of, we have a new lineup, we have a few people in different spots, and we have a girl named Jaela Meister we pulled up,” said first-year Trojans coach Samantha Keel.
“We spent the day together. We showed up at the gym and we just kind of hung out. We had lunch at Hacienda together. It wasn’t so much about win, win, win, it was about ‘Hey, we have to enjoy this because it’s literally live to die another day.’ We’re just kind of happy to do alright. It was a great win.”
Tuesday’s sectional victory was even sweeter for Triton after a loss to South Central in three games in its home invitational earlier in the year. Add to that the fact that the Lady Trojans had suffered through a two-week win drought leading up to the state tournament opener, and they were feeling pretty good Tuesday night.
“We’ve been looking forward to this so long because we got beaten by South Central on our home court at our volleyball tournament. We lost two out of three, so for them to come back and not want to lose was huge for our team,” said Keel.
“I’m just proud of our girls. It’s been over two weeks since we’ve won a match. We end our regular season on a very tough schedule, mostly 3A schools. I know it was really discouraging to get beat in three at Wawasee, to get beat in three at Plymouth. We got beat by Jimtown, which is a 2A school and a conference rival in four games, and we played extremely well but we still got beat. So for us to come out and play as well as we did tonight we’re extremely pleased.”
The first game was a back-and-forth affair featuring 12 ties and three lead changes before Triton closed out the game 4-2 to go up a set, 25-23. The Trojans fell behind 4-0 early in the second game but collected themselves during a timeout and went on an 8-4 run to knot the game up at 8-all. South Central remained close until a 4-1 run finally gave Triton a little breathing room at 19-16, and the Lady Trojans closed it out, 25-19 to take a big two-set lead into the third game.
South Central didn’t quit in the third set, and the game was tied as late as 20-20, but the Trojans again finished strong, and Shana Anderson’s kill from the outside on a back set from Marissa Ross clinched the victory at 25-22.
“It’s the same thing every time. We always take a step back, we take a deep breath, and we say ‘OK, we’ve got them right where we want them,’” Keel said of her team’s timeout early in the second game. “Because, really, this is how we play. We’ve played that way all year. We can be down five to six points to zero and still come back and win 25-17. We’ve done that several times this year… To be down by four is nothing new for us.”
Anderson was on fire with 16 kills including the match-winner, while Breanna Lemler finished with eight for Triton. Ross passed out 28 assists and was one of three Trojans with two aces along with Lemler and Koontz.
Freshman Meister recorded a pair of block solos, and a strong team passing effort was anchored by Krystal Sellers with 15 digs, while Koontz and Holly Stogsdill each notched 11.
The Trojans advance to play Argos in the semifinal at Culver Saturday at 10:30 a.m. followed by a match between the winner of Thursday night’s quarterfinals between Marquette Catholic and the host Lady Cavs and Oregon-Davis and Westville. The winners of the semifinals will advance to the championship at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We’ve already played Argos three times this year at the Kankakee Valley Tournament, at our home tournament, and again during our regular season. We have not lost a game to Argos, and that makes me nervous,” said Keel. “Argos is a basic fundamental team, so it’s all about being quick and putting the ball to the floor as fast as we can. I am definitely not, and I know my team is definitely not looking past Argos on Saturday. We’ve got to get past them if we want to play on Saturday night. I think it’s going to be a good match.”
• TRITON 3, SOUTH CENTRAL 0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-22)
At Culver Sectional
Kills: Shana Anderson 16, Breanna Lemler 8
Aces: Marissa Ross 2, Emily Koontz 2, Breanna Lemler 2
Assists: Ross 28
Digs: Krystal Sellers 15, Holly Stogsdill 11, Koontz 11
Blocks: Jaela Meister 2