Backus, Bree help Valley bounce Peru on Brayden Baney’s birthday
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
AKRON — Tippecanoe Valley volleyball team libero Brayden Baney took a picture with a birthday cake after her team’s match against Peru Tuesday.
Her present was a 25-19, 25-17, 25-13 win that improved Valley’s Three Rivers Conference record to 2-0 going into Thursday’s home match against defending conference champ Maconaquah.
Baney, a junior, said the team is adjusting to the style and teachings of new coach Doug West.
“We’ve gotten a lot better by communicating and focusing in as a group and all together working harder and staying positive as a group,” Baney said. “It is a big change, but we’ve gotten moreso used to it, and he’s a great coach.”
West said it was “super” when told of Baney’s comments about better communication.
“I think we communicated well tonight,” West said. “But sometimes it’s the players where you really learn. And she’s an educated, knowledgeable, experienced player. So if she’s saying that, she’s experiencing a good thing on the court in the communication, so I’m glad. That’s good.”
Game 1 was tied 14-14 when Valley won six straight points to take a 20-14 lead. Hannah Engstrand had an ace and two service winners during the run. Emily McGriff also had a stuff block. Bree Sheetz also had a kill, and Delaney Wagoner went crosscourt with a kill.
Wagoner has taken on more attacking responsibility from the opposite side.
“Tons,” West said when asked with how much confidence Wagoner is playing. “She’s playing with a lot of confidence. She’s got a great role on her team, and she’s really performing it really well, and she’s really doing a nice job.”
The game ended on two Hayley Backus kills.
“She was really on her game tonight,” West said of Backus. “She played extremely well, and that was another key for us. Her in the middle, she did a nice job.”
Valley went on a 9-1 run in Game 2 to build a 15-6 lead. Peru scored five straight points to get within 15-11, and Valley coach Doug West called what turned out to be his only timeout of the match.
But Peru’s Kloee Cassell cranked one kill try into the net and missed another long, and Annika Malone missed on a serve as Valley’s lead stretched back out to 18-12. Another three-point run that included a McGriff kill and an Engstrand two-handed tip to the deep corner got the lead to 24-16. The game would eventually end on a Karissa Tomson service error.
In the third game, Valley went on a 10-1 run to build a 19-8 lead. Baney and Ashley Butler had two aces each during the run, and Wagoner had two kills. Backus also had two kills during the run as she worked off Engstrand multiple times during the match on slides.
The match ended with a Sheetz kill and a clean ace from Karli Hogue.
Baney said communicating on and off the court has helped. It also helps having a full complement of hitters with Backus, Sheetz and Wagoner.
“Peru is definitely one of the scrappier teams that we’ve played so far, and having Bree, Delaney and Backus — all of our hitters — to be there definitely helps a lot, even with the block,” Baney said.
Being able to terminate the long points, even against hard-digging Peru was a good sign, according to West.
“I think what we did so well was we finished out the long rallies,” West said. “Even though they were scrappy, we were able to stay in system and get the best last swing and win the rally. I thought that was a big plus for us, winning the long rallies, even though they were scrappy.”