In their final two games of the season the Knox College volleyball team did not look like a side that had previously not won a game all year. The Prairie Fire dominated Eureka and Robert Morris Colleges, earning victories in both of the non-conference matchups.
Against Eureka, Knox won every set by at least 10 points, giving the raucous home crowd plenty to cheer for.
“Having the crowd really helped us,” senior Lisa Blagg said. “It is always nice to know that there is support from other students on campus. I have never in my four years at Knox seen such a crowd. It was really great to have one during my senior season.”
Blagg finished with a team high 13 digs in her last game at Memorial Gymnasium.
“Looking back I can say that I am pleased. I got the chance to play the sport that I love and the position that I trained hard to be good at,” Blagg said. “The past four years haven’t exactly been what I wanted out of volleyball in terms of wins and losses, but I have gained lots of valuable life lessons and knowledge that I can take with me out into the “real world” after I graduate that will only make me a stronger person. Plus, when I look back years from now, I won’t be remembering the record that I had, but the memories I made with my teammates and the friends that came along with that.”
Head coach Kim Schrader praised the leadership Blagg provided to the team over the course of her career.
“When Lisa came in she was by herself in her recruiting class. She had to find her own way; there was not as much leadership for her, and so she embraced becoming a leader herself. She’s a great libero and a great defensive player, and as she proved this year she is the consummate team player. She sacrificed her own career numbers to do what the team needed her to do,” Schrader said, referencing Blagg’s switch to setter for the majority of this season as a result of an injury to sophomore Nina Mack.
Mack returned to the team for the final two weeks of the season and finished with 18 assists against the Red Devils, seven of which led to kills by senior Stef Baker.
“[Baker] played in high school, then took two years off before coming [to Knox],” Schrader said. “But her athleticism and fitness never wavered, and she is the perfect example of a player who has gotten better every day she has been in the program. She really played well at the end of the year, especially with her offensive contributions.”
Led by senior Kelly Ricketts Knox then prevailed against Robert Morris by a 3-1 score. Ricketts closed out her outstanding career with 13 kills and three blocks.
“It felt good to end the season on a high note since this season hasn’t gone the way [we] wish it would have in terms of the record of wins and losses,” Ricketts said. “It made the exit a little brighter and happier.”
Schrader believes the final game will only add to Ricketts’ legacy.
“The greatest legacy is to leave something better than you found it, and there is no doubt in my mind that volleyball at Knox College is better because Kelly Ricketts was a player here. I think that will forever be true. From the beginning she was a great player, but she was great for this program because she also made everyone around her better,” Schrader said.
Schrader also knows that by winning the final two games the Prairie Fire have in some way salvaged an otherwise disappointing year.
“There is no doubt that this was a challenging season for us,” she said. “We played some really good teams, and played some good matches, but it was disappointing in many ways. We came back at the end and handily beat some teams and the end of this season … should give us a great amount of confidence heading into next season. Any frustration we had over this season needs to propel us to bigger and better things next year.”