The Prairie Fire volleyball team hosted the second annual #MarissaStrong Tournament on Friday, Sept. 14 and Saturday, Sept. 15. Westminster, Lincoln, Finlandia, Illinois College, Anderson, Olivet, Wheaton and Monmouth were among the teams that participated.
The tournament honors junior Marissa Akers who is also a player on the team. Knox lost all four matches, but the team remained positive through those defeats. And despite the losses, there were some definite highlights for Knox.
Two Prairie Fire players, freshman Autumn Schneider and sophomore Mady Ferris, were selected for the all-tournament team. Schneider had a total of 52 kills for a .310 hitting percentage, along with an impressive eight solo blocks and seven block assists. Ferris had 129 digs in the tournament and is having a strong season, being currently ranked no. 5 in the country in digs per set.
For freshman Katie Anderson, playing in honor of a teammate added a special and personal dimension to the tournament.
“The fact that this was for Marissa really brought us together and gave us another reason to play,” Anderson said.
As a freshman, Anderson has started 12 of 14 games this season and has played in every game. During the #MarissaStrong Tournament, Anderson was able to rack up 28 kills. With conference games starting this week, she is excited to play against other teams and see what the Prairie Fire can achieve.
Head Coach Ashley McDonough was very pleased with how the tournament was run.
“It’s nice to be able to celebrate a survivor of something so deadly and traumatic. We were so happy to see the great interest in the tournament and were so pleased that all of the cancer informational materials we put out were picked up by tournament attendees and visitors,” McDonough said.
McDonough went on to say that her team is young, but they have had some moments during both the tournament and season that were excellent and she is encouraged about future growth.
Captain and junior Sherry Mei talked about how the team is very young and that there are no seniors on the roster.
“There were some glimpses of great plays. However, we still have a lot to work to do because it is a growing process,” Mei said.
Mei is excited to see this team grow this year both physically and mentally and continues to provide experience and leadership to her team.
Junior Maddie Byrne said that this tournament experience taught her about improvement.
“It’s important to take our losses gracefully and to make sure to learn something and improve on at least one thing for our next game. And it really gave us a really good sense of what we need to work on before conference, which is a great thing about the timing of Marissa’s tournament,” Byrne said.
Byrne had 20 kills and seven block assists in the tournament. She added that her favorite thing about this season is getting the opportunity to play alongside Marissa again because the last time she played with her was two years ago during their freshman year.
A common theme between everyone I spoke with was about growing together and improving both physically and mentally. McDonough shared a motto that her team is focusing on for the rest of the season Ñ “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This really ties in with all the players and saying they want to grow together and saying that it will be a process. Anderson is excited to grow as a team over the course of the conference schedule.
“I’m excited for conference games to start because these are when the games really matter. This will give us an extra drive out there on the court, and to see if we can play to our full potential,” Anderson said.
The Prairie Fire volleyball team will next play Lake Forest College at home on Sept. 29 at 1 p.m.