Sports / The Prairie Fire / October 23, 2008

Fire toast Devils, but season in jeopardy

The last week hasn’t been kind to the Knox College volleyball team, who entered last week in the running for a berth in the MWC championship tournament. Entering the final week of games, they faced three conference opponents with a good chance to make a run for a spot. Unfortunately, they dropped two of the three games, against Illinois College on Oct. 15 and Grinnell College on Oct. 18, then finished out with a grinding win against the Red Devils of Eureka. It was a tough week to swallow, but Knox College is nothing if not tough on the field or court, and they look only to the future.

“We started slow [against Grinnell],” said Coach Kim Schrader, voicing a problem the team has had all season. “We gave away the first game. We did some things well. We were down seven or eight points and fought back.”

The high note for the week, the game against Eureka College, was a hard fought battle between two hungry adversaries. Knox won the contest by a count of 3-2, though only after going back and forth against their opponent over and over.

Starting with their now-typical sluggishness, the Fire were quickly down 0-1, and not looking their best. Luckily, Eureka became complacent with its early lead, and Knox was able to sweep back, mad from the loss, and smash their way through to a tie. The excitement of volleyball lies in these beautiful tradeoffs that happen in these back and forth battles, and this match was a brilliant example of two squads going punch for punch. With the second game, Knox managed to land the haymaker, and daze the Devils for a second. The third game was a close fight with both teams fighting for points, and as Schrader pointed out, the Devils earned a tough victory, going to tie-breakers to win it 27-25, and taking the lead for the match once again at 2-1. This had the opposite effect the Devils were hoping it would on the Fire, however, and game four turned into a thumping, as Knox ran away with it, 25-13. The final match would be the decider, and a good one at that.

“We were tenacious (in game five),” said Schrader. “Setters, hitters, diggers, they all played really hard. We made longer rallies, and made good scoring chances.”

The match, which usually goes to 15, went 17-15, and the two teams would not let up. Knox, though, plainly had more guts, skill, and will to win, and took it from the Devils. Just like Johnny and the golden fiddle, Knox walked away from the Reagan Center the victor.

The team takes a trip down the road on Oct. 22 to Monmouth to face the Fighting Scots on their home turf and look to do some damage to a team with championship hopes. Knox, while not mathematically out of it, needs a lot to go their way, while the spoiler role is something they can use to make some girls cry.

“They have a balanced attack,” said Schrader. “It’s a conference game, and we have to win. We just have to take advantage of their weaknesses, and our strengths.”

After the Monmouth game, the Fire face the Foresters of Lake Forest, their final conference game of the year. With two wins here, and losses by Illinois College, and another by Monmouth, the Fire could have a spot in that tournament. Either way, the women of Knox are a proud people, and don’t take kindly to losing.

“There’s lots of self pride, and we want to make improvements,” said Schrader. “[Senior] Jaclyn Anderson had been playing two very good games, and [senior] Shannon Liston has been playing probably the best volleyball of her life the past two weeks. Even if you aren’t contending, you still want to work for the future.”

Schrader, who is in her second season with a program on a definite upswing, is ready, despite the adversity, and is hoping to win out.

The match against Lake Forest is at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, and senior night is two nights later on Thursday at the same time. Get out there, and show your love for a team that could be going places soon enough.

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