Sports / The Prairie Fire / September 25, 2008

Weekend split ends volleyball home streak

The weekend ended with mixed feelings for the Knox volleyball team, as it won its second game of the season and then had their home winning streak snapped the next day. Despite the loss, good things were taken out of the two games, regardless of their outcome. Coach Schrader was upbeat after the first game, a hard-fought win against Lawrence College, and was ready to continue the success they had at home throughout the season.

“It feels good to win,” Schrader said Saturday. “Like a real streak.”

After winning the opening game at home on Heimann Court, the team was fired up to keep the home field advantage alive and not let anyone take it away from them.

Friday had the feeling of a special day as the Prairie Fire took the court with a small, hardcore group of fans that had the ability to get loud at the drop of a hat. And get loud they did, as the Fire played with passion, getting on the floor, saving balls that should have been points, and taking the points for themselves.

After dropping the first game to Lawrence, whose early defense was nigh impenetrable, allowing Knox only 13 points to their 25. The kill shot split through the defense of Knox, as two players watched it drop in between each other, barely even moving their feet. The Fire started off the first game hot, keeping within two points of Lawrence for the first ten points but cooled off rather quickly under the onslaught Lawrence was mounting against them. It was a pivotal point in the match, a time to see how the young women would deal with adversity, facing a deficit they had to overcome.

“After the first game, I just told the girls to focus on the little stuff,” said Schrader. “A lot of unforced errors were getting us, we just needed to stop that, and we could take it back.”

The team responded to the coach’s teachings with aplomb, as it swept back onto the court with renewed fervor. The crowd sensing something new, came alive at the same time and was behind the team the whole rest of the match.

Knox really fought for the next two games, with some inspired play by junior Katharina Schulte, who, with junior Christina Davis, combined to form one of the mightiest one-two punch spike combos the school has seen in a long time. The addition of freshman defensive wunderkind Lisa Blagg shores up an already stingy defense and it showed throughout the match.

After Knox took game two, Lawrence was overmatched and it was obvious when Knox led 11-9 and Blagg laid out, sacrificing her body for the team and saving a point to give Knox the advantage. Blagg blew up bigger in game three, effectively taking over the game, saving points when she needed to, and being a one-woman wall. The final score of the game, 25-21 Knox, does not show what really went on, as Lawrence went on runs of four straight points to open the game. Knox was down 10-5 at one point, before locking down and seizing control. Again, prodigious defense by Blagg in particular and the team in general, coupled with a hammering offense, gave the team the win.

Game four was almost a given, as Knox rode what they had been doing to a final victory for the match, defeating Lawrence 25-17 to end it all. For the first time in the evening Knox struck first and it never looked back. Early in the match, Schulte hammered a serve back to the opposing side, embarrassing Lawrence to the point where the wind left their sails altogether. Though the Fire controlled the game, Lawrence actually mounted a charge midway through after Knox flipped on the cruise control for a minute and Lawrence pulled ahead 10-9. That was all they could do though and even as Lawrence scrambled all they could to get back into it, Knox sealed the deal and caused confusion, getting the final point on a foul by Lawrence.

“Volleyball is a game of momentum,” noted Schrader. “We were able to ride it to a win this time.”

Knox played again on Sunday, losing three straight games to top ranked St Norbert. Knox fought well, but was overpowered by the strength Norbert seems to have in every athletic department. Despite the loss and the ensuing break of the streak Knox had built, the team looks to start a new one and cause as much havoc in the MWC standings as possible.

Merritt Rohlfing

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