The Knox College volleyball team failed to capitalize on home court advantage in a 3-0 loss to the Illinois College Lady Blues on Tuesday night.
Knox came out sluggish in the first set, falling to a quick 25-12 defeat. The early struggles have become what head coach Shayla Chalker believes to be a bad habit.
“It’s been our thing all year to start slow and then pick it up in the second set,” Chalker said. “We dig ourselves a hole, and it is too late in the end.”
The trend continued as Knox fought back hard in the second and third sets with the large crowd urging them on.
At one point in the second set, Knox led 14-10, which forced the Lady Blues to call a timeout. Following the timeout, Illinois College rallied for 6 consecutive points and ultimately won the set 25-22.
Déjà vu followed in the third set as once again the Prairie Fire opened a 14-10, only to have Illinois College rally after a timeout. This time, the Lady Blues notched seven straight points, and won the third set 25-22 again.
The losses in the second and third set were Knox’s 13th and 14th this season by four or fewer points.
One of the bright spots for the Prairie Fire was the transition game led by freshman setter Casey Stalcheski, who netted 25 assists, her second highest output of the season.
“We are trying to push [the middle of the court],” Chalker said. “We had done a lot of practice switching [Stalcheski] into the middle of the court.”
“When our passes are on, we can run [the offense] out of the middle, and today we did better with that,” Stalcheski said.
She also noted that her game has improved from having sophomore Katie White back on the court. White suffered a torn meniscus in the preseason and was making her first appearance of the season for the Prairie Fire.
“Having [White] back was really big. To have another option to go to always makes things easier,” Stalcheski said.
White finished the game with four kills and eight digs, while junior Kaylie Prince also notched eight digs and led the team with 11 kills.
Overall, the game still was not what Coach Chalker knows the team is capable of, specifically noting the improvements that need to be made in the return game and overall consistency.
“If we can’t get our passes down, then we can’t get the ball to [Stalcheski] and when we can’t get the ball to her, then we can’t get a swing,” she said. “We have certain girls that are on every match, and then with some others, it has been hit and miss. Right now, we are working to put it all together.”
Knox’s season continues this weekend when they head to St. Louis, Mo. to take part in the Bears Classic tournament at Washington University on Oct. 5 and 6.