All-RTC volleyball: Pioneer was area’s best team, and Cripe was top player
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
The Pioneer volleyball team found out how much of the rest of the world lives when they lost the Class 1A, Sectional 52 final to Southwood on Oct. 16.
It was their first loss in a sectional match since 2005. And it came one year after they did not lose a match at any point in the state tournament.
In their first season after winning their first state title in school history, Hailey Cripe kept up her high level of play.
Numbers can tell a story, but players can accumulate numbers simply if a match goes four or five sets.
Rather, we strongly advise watching a volleyball match in person to understand how a player can affect a match and pair those observations with the numbers.
Hailey Cripe comes up superior on all counts, and she is the RTC Player of the Year for volleyball.
Cripe had a team-high 321 kills. Her contributions in the back row were huge as well, as she could cover sideline to sideline.
This was also the year of an uprising from Caston, and the player that symbolized that uprising was Maddi Smith, a player who had much of the same skill set as Cripe and who deserves mention in this space.
Two other players that we strongly admired were Rochester setter Alexa Kouskousakis and Emily Hughes.
Again, this list is ours and ours alone and based on statistics and our own observations. We take full responsibility. We would like to thank area coaches for their insights and taking the time to talk about their team and their players.
Hailey Cripe (Pioneer) (Player of the Year) – You might think of Cripe as a strong and efficient hitter – she is especially adept at hitting down the line – but she also had 267 digs and 301 serves received from the back row.
Maddi Smith (Caston) – Smith was part of the 300-300-300 club: 343 kills, 360 digs, 325 serves received. She was also second on the team in aces.
Emily Hughes (Rochester) – Hughes was a heavy hitter with 317 kills and a front row menace with 79 blocks. She also improved her serve and her overall game.
Alexa Kouskousakis (Rochester) – Rochester graduated one great setter in Molly Conley and replaced her with another with Kouskousakis, who is both a great athlete and an instinctive quarterback.
Brayden Baney (Tippecanoe Valley) – The area’s best libero was Baney, who could come in on a ball as well she could move back. She was the main reason why Valley avoided passing errors.
Mallory Durkes (Tippecanoe Valley) – Durkes was Valley’s go-to hitter. She had a variety of shots from outside, middle and opposite.
Isabel Scales (Caston) – Scales expanded her game as a sophomore and now is an excellent back row player to go with her hitting and blocking skills. She also led the Lady Comets with 59 aces.
Kylie Houston (Rochester) – Houston was another top libero. You could seemingly fire a missile at her, and she would gently deliver it to Kouskousakis without having to make Kouskousakis move. She also was Rochester’s top server.
Mackenzie Rogers (Pioneer) – Rogers, a sophomore, is a complete player. She’s a phenomenal athlete as setters go, but she also is a good hitter, server and blocker. She will continue to thrive in a 6-3 system/
Mackenzie Robinson (Pioneer) – Robinson had a tough act to replace in the graduated Mackenzie Walker, but her 448 digs were worthy of special mention.
Brynn Berndt (Culver) – Berndt is to Culver what Rogers is to Pioneer. She’s a setter, she’s an absolute jumping jack, and she might have been Culver’s go-to hitter. And she’s only a freshman.
Mackaylie Costello (Tippecanoe Valley) – Whether it’s inexperience or lack of confidence, freshmen are not often the most efficient hitters. Mackaylie Costello was the exception to the rule, and she deserved the playing time she got with her 42 percent kill percentage.
Mandee Weisenburger (Pioneer)
Addison Zimpleman (Caston)
Brooklyn Borges (Pioneer)
Abby Williamson (Caston)
Macy Kirchenstien (Tippecanoe Valley)
Kennedy Leap (Rochester)
Alina Pizur (Culver)
Alyssa Villanueva (Winamac)
McKenzie Hinz (Winamac)
Ava Smith (Tippecanoe Valley)
Maegan Pearl (Culver)
Emma Novaski (Pioneer)
RTC Player of the Year Hailey Cripe