A week of inactivity on the schedule comes to an end for the Prairie Fire volleyball team as they prepare to defend Heimann Court once again. On Wednesday, Robert Morris College came to town, and on Saturday conference rival Beloit will make the journey to Galesburg to face off against a well-rested and primed Prairie Fire team.
“We normally play more games [during the season],” said senior Jaclyn Anderson. “We’re excited to play again.”
Anderson and the rest of the squad have high hopes for the weekend, and indeed the entire season, and have already pushed the memories of last year’s slog out of their minds. The team is currently ranked in the top five in the conference, with a record of 2-2 in the conference. This gives them a big shot to pull something amazing off, and they are ready to win it all.
Having already played Robert Morris at the other team’s home court, the girls know what to expect, at least to a degree. Coach Kim Schrader has been schooling them this whole bye week on the little things they have been missing, and tightening down what needs it.
“We know what they [Robert Morris] do well, and what we didn’t do well,” said Anderson. “We just have to go at them, and exploit their weaknesses. And being at home, with the home crowd, will really help us.”
Having only lost once on Heimann Court this season, the team has a right to be excited for what is coming, and will be ready to show their fans what they are made of and where they are headed.
Earlier in the week, a problem almost arose that could have spelled doom for the Fire’s season already. Katharina Schulte, the junior exchange student from Germany, had her NCAA eligibility questioned by an unnamed jealous rival squad. Due to differences with the way Germany and the United States deal with collegiate sports (Germany technically doesn’t have any, instead using club sports) some people wanted to check to make sure she was allowed to play.
“Nothing came of it,” said Anderson, “She will play. It’s not even a problem any more.” This was obviously good news for the team, as Schulte has been a catalyst for great things throughout the year, and with her in the lineup, the team has all the more chance to win.
As part two of the season kicks off, Anderson, and in fact the whole team, sees it as an opportunity to shock the whole conference.
“The conference is still up in the air,” she said. “This is the year I think we will go somewhere. We are normally a slow starting team, so we need to get out there and take games early. There’s less than a month left, but hopefully the season will go longer, into the postseason.”
The Wednesday night game against Robert Morris didn’t go quite as well as the team would have liked as they came off the break. After winning the first game handily, the Fire lost the momentum they had grabbed from their opponents, and quickly gave back the advantage, dropping the second game, 25-23. It continued on a downhill slope from there, despite some prodigious play by Schulte, as well as some of the “best defense we’ve played all season,” as coach Schrader put it. Game 4 had the look of a blowout, as Knox was down by as many as 10, but they pulled back within two before ultimately falling to Robert Morris.
”We couldn’t get the momentum to swing back our way,” said Schrader. “Once we can get that going, we can beat anyone.”
The team hosts the Beloit Buccaneers on Saturday at 1 p.m., and Schrader looks to be ready for it.
“We’re going to watch some film, see what we didn’t do well, and fix it,” she said. “We just have to capitalize on chances we’re given.”