Knox Volleyball is two wins away from doubling last year’s overall win record. In 2018, their record was 6-21 overall, with a 1-8 record in conference and last place finish in the Midwest Conference. So far this season, they are 10-15 overall and 2-4 in conference play, placing 7th out of 10 teams in the Midwest Conference standings. The program has changed significantly since last year. Three new players: freshman Thao Luong, freshman Kaitlyn Kashishian and sophomore Catessa Duran have helped power the program’s success. They also are led by new coach, Pat Barry, assisted by Sara Baker.
Barry joined the program last spring and began work immediately to rebuild the team and promote a winning mindset. He used the non-traditional spring sessions to analyze his players. Barry wanted to find out just how hard the team was willing to work.
“I’ve been able to push them past that point and it shows in our progress,” Barry said.
He is happy to see the hard work the team has put forth and feels it correlates to the success they have achieved this season. Mady Ferris, junior, and Director of Athletics Daniella Irle have both seen the positive results from working hard and stronger team commitment.
Ferris has seen considerable growth within the team. She emphasizes the overall hustle and winning expectations that she and her teammates have in place.
“There are so many balls this year we can touch and play that last year we just let fall. It’s because we hold ourselves to higher standards because Coach [Barry] never lets us shy away from those standards,” said Ferris.
The team is able to compete more effectively in conference now because of the hustle and high expectations. This showed when the team played Lawrence University on Friday, Oct. 4. Lawrence won the first set 25-22, but then the Prairie Fire came back to win the next three sets, 25-20, 25-21 and 25-19. Each of those games was a battle and the team had to fight for every point. In the 2018 season, Knox fell to the Vikings in three sets with the scores being 19-25, 16-25 and 19-25. The intensity and resiliency of the volleyball team powered them to an exciting win.
Irle loves the fighting attitude that this team has shown this year.
“This team will not give up. If they are down five or six points they will just power back. They fight and that makes me proud and happy for them,” Irle said.
When the team played St. Norbert, who is 3rd in the conference, they held their own and fought until the end of the last set. A reason why they are improving this year is the coaching, said Irle. They are accepting the guidance from the coaching staff and it is showing on the court this season.
As the season wraps up, Barry has a goal for his team. He would love to find some consistency.
“We have a lot of talent and have very short spurts of using it all at the same time. I would love to put together a full set, and if we’re lucky, maybe even a full match of Knox College Volleyball,” said Barry.
The Prairie Fire has future match-ups with Ripon, Lake Forest and Monmouth in the next few weeks, and with any luck, they’ll be able to double their previous overall win record.
“This team is something special,” said Barry.