Knox’s volleyball team (3-21, 0-6) does not have the overall record they would like, but they refine their skills in every set and match.
“As we continue to improve and get better, we are putting ourselves in pressure situations,” head coach Kim Schrader said. “We have to continue improving and getting better at taking advantage of those pressure situations and making them work in our favor. We have to recognize them, own them, and then win them.”
Throughout the season, the team has lost sets and matches by inches, not by miles. They hope everything will measure up in their next two matches, which are both at home.
Tonight at 7 p.m., the Fighting Scots of Monmouth College will face the Prairie Fire inside Memorial Gym.
“It’s Monmouth, everybody gets excited to challenge Monmouth,” Schrader said. “It is also our next to the last home match of the season. We have to come out ready to play from the first serve on.”
Next Wednesday, Oct. 21, the Prairie Fire play host to the Red Devils of Eureka College, a team they have already defeated this season.
In their second match of the season on Sept. 1, Knox faced the Red Devils in Eureka, Ill. and won in five sets: 25-14, 25-23, 21-25, 13-25 and 15-8.
The match versus Eureka is the last home match of the season for the Prairie Fire and their three seniors — Karen Frost, Greta Egge and Christina Davis.
“We have three seniors who have given their all for their four years at Knox and it would be very nice to have a big crowd to support them and see them in their finale,” Schrader said. “It is bittersweet. You know the end will come, but you are never quite ready for it, but you know there are great things that await them on the other side. I am sad and excited at the same time.
“The seniors have done a great job of providing leadership to a young team this season. They will definitely be missed. I’d like to send them out with a win. The lessons and relationships will last forever.”
On Tuesday, the Prairie Fire traveled to Lake Forest, Ill. to face the Foresters of Lake Forest College. Knox lost to the Foresters in four sets: 25-20, 21-25, 11-25 and 13-25.
“We played really well in the first set. We gave ourselves a lot of opportunities to score and then we were able to capitalize on those opportunities by controlling the ball and scoring. We did that by passing well. We did that by setting effectively and selectively making good choices,” Schrader said. “We also served really aggressively in the first set and scored a lot of points off of the serve either by scoring immediately off the serve or by forcing them to pass poorly on serve receiving and setting ourselves up to take advantage of that right away.”
The Prairie Fire played well in their first set versus Lake Forest, but they did not terminate the ball soon enough in their remaining three sets.
“As the night wore on, we let them hang around a little bit too long. We had opportunities to terminate the ball and instead of terminating the ball, we kept the ball in play,” Schrader said. “Every time you keep the ball in play, that gives the other team the chance to terminate and score. We weren’t as efficient at taking advantage of the opportunities that we had.”
Last Friday, the Carroll University Pioneers came to Galesburg and defeated the Prairie Fire in three sets: 19-25, 17-25 and 17-25.
At the beginning of the second set, the Pioneers scored first, but Knox was able to come right back and score. However, Carroll went on a run and scored seven straight points afterwards and forced Schrader to call a timeout.
“Obviously, that is what you try to avoid,” Schrader said after the match. “Volleyball is a game of runs and we started off slow but we also fought back. In any match, you want to avoid runs by the other team and create runs of your own but it is still 25 points. As we proved later in the match, we are capable of getting runs of our own. We have to minimize their runs and maximize ours. That is about playing to our strengths and making the other team defend.”
Last Saturday, the Ripon College Redhawks traveled to the ‘Burg to face the Prairie Fire and going into the match, sophomore hitter, Kelly Ricketts, knew what Knox had to do after losing to the Pioneers.
“We need to be consistent,” she said. “We have had games where we have played really well and we have had periods of games where we play really well. If we can put those spots together and play well the whole game then I feel like we should be able to turn this around.”
Knox was not able to remain consistent versus the Redhawks and the Prairie Fire lost in five sets: 26-24, 25-18, 14-25, 15-25 and 11-15.
“They found our weak spot and we didn’t adjust very well to defend,” Schrader said. “It is a game of momentum and when the momentum is on your side you seem to score easily. When the momentum is on the other team’s side, it is a bigger challenge to adjust and pull back in your favor.”