Knox’s volleyball team finished with a 4-25 overall record and went 0-9 in Midwest Conference (MWC) matches last season.
This season is not the same as last season by any means.
The Prairie Fire currently has an overall record of 5-8, and do not have any seniors on the roster. Last season, Karen Frost, Greta Egge and Christina Davis represented the senior class.
Head coach Kim Schrader is happy with the progress of her team, but there is still work to be done.
“We have displayed moments of greatness and evidence of how good a team that we can be. We just need to string it together,” Schrader said. “We are starting to play better and better teams and we are starting to play at a higher level. We want to get better each time that we take the court.”
On Saturday, the Prairie Fire has their first home match of the season when they play host to the Beloit College Buccaneers.
“We are excited to play at home and are looking for a big crowd,” Schrader said. “Beloit is the preseason favorite to win the Midwest Conference. I feel like they are a very good team, but that we have the advantage because we are at home. We feel like we can play with everybody in our league so we are excited to play at home against arguably one of the best teams in the conference.”
Buccaneers head coach Dawn Redd is content with the progress her team has made so far this season and knows that defeating the Fire won’t be a cakewalk.
“I think we are doing a great job,” Redd said. “It is a long season and you just have to peak at the right time and now is not the right time. I am happy with our development.
“Knox has a first team all conference player on their team, [junior] Kelly Ricketts. She is very good. We have to worry about her and plan for her. I’m sure that Kim has done a good job of surrounding her with good players. We will consider ourselves lucky if we can get out of there with a win,” Redd said.
The Buccaneers (7-6) may possibly be the best team in the MWC, but they are similar to the Fire.
However, at this point in the season, being like other teams really does not matter to the Prairie Fire. What matters is where they sit in the MWC standings at the end of the season.
“The top four teams make it to the Midwest Conference tournament at the end of the season so we have to do better than six other teams,” Schrader said. “I believe that is completely within reach for us.”
Also, early-season individual accolades have been piling up for the Prairie Fire. Freshman setter Nina Mack was selected to the All-Tournament Team for her play in the Monmouth Tournament last weekend. She had 88 assists and 12 digs in the tourney.
Ricketts led the way for the Prairie Fire, starting off the season by being named to the All-Tournament Team for her play in the Eureka College Tournament, then by being named the MWC Player-Of-The-Week for her play during the first week of the season.
Ricketts had 81 kills, or an average of 16.2 per match, and a hitting percentage of .278 through Knox’s first five matches. She played every point of every set of every match, helping the Prairie Fire jump out to a 3-2 overall record. She displayed her all-around skills by also tallying 45 digs in the Fire’s first five matches, an average of nine per contest.
On Wednesday night, the Prairie Fire dropped both matches against Lincoln Christian University and Illinois College — each by a score of 3-0.