• Val T.

Durkes leads Valley front row in road sweep of Winamac

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

WINAMAC –- Winamac volleyball player Alyssa Villanueva won a joust at the net for a point in Game 1 of their match against Tippecanoe Valley Tuesday, and the enthusiasm of the Winamac fans and bench bounced off the walls.

Valley led 12-11, but Winamac was seemingly grabbing the momentum.

With help from the serves of Bree Sheetz and Abby Koch, Valley responded with a 13-1 run to close out the game, and the Lady Vikings went on to win 25-12, 25-16, 25-18 to win their third straight match and improve to 4-2.

Mallory Durkes patrolled the Valley front wall, recording nine kills and 3.5 blocks. Senior setter Macy Kirchenstien had a team-high 18 assists and four aces. Brayden Baney led with 10 digs.

Valley first-year coach Ashley Derf spoke of the importance of the Game 1 run, especially in light of the Lady Vikings playing their second match in two days – they beat Goshen at home Monday – and their fifth match in eight days.

“It was really important,” Derf said. “The girls were tired. Long week last week and a big game last night kind of drained them energy-wise. So they were tired and a little nervous there at the beginning. I gave them a little pep talk and kind of found some weaknesses in their defense. And so we tried to take advantage of that, and it worked for us.”

McKenzie Hinz led Winamac with seven kills. Kaya Campbell had seven assists and 15 digs. Villanueva had three blocks and 10 serves received, and sophomore Piper Link had nine serves received.

Though Winamac fell to 2-9, coach Heather Kasten cited improvement. The Lady Warriors were coming off an 0-4 showing at the Tomahawk Invitational at North Miami three days earlier. Playing with only seven available players in a sweltering hot gym, they lost all four matches in straight sets and scored as many as 20 points in only one of the eight sets.

She said one player is out due to a positive COVID test and another was out due to pneumonia. She said the shorthanded team was off on its timing, but it had also improved against Valley. Winamac is also trying to adjust without all-Hoosier North player Maggie Smith, who graduated.

“We’re very young,” Kasten said. “I only have Kaya and Alyssa with varsity experience. So there are two sophomores on the floor, one hitting and one defense. I think that’s something to build upon.”

Serving is also getting better, according to Kasten.

“I feel like our serves have improved so much,” Kasten said. “If we can be a little bit more aggressive and drive the window and bring that ball down across the net, it’s going to be tough.”

Meanwhile, Derf said she has spent much practice time focusing on passing, which she said was a weakness going back to the summer.

However, having a multitude of offensive weapons would not appear to be an issue for Valley. Durkes, Sheetz, Ava Smith, Colette Blackburn and Emily McGriff all had their moments in the front row.

Smith, a sophomore, closed out Game 2 with back-to-back kills.

In Game 3, Valley went on a 13-5 to go ahead for good after there had been five earlier ties.

Derf said she also wants a faster tempo.

“So we’re trying to speed up our offense. … At one point, I think we had Colette Blackburn, Mallory Durkes and Bree Sheetz in there, and so between the three of them, they’re all weapons. But we kept going to one side, so we were like, OK, we’ve got to change it up because they know where we’re going. Once we started changing up, it worked a lot better for us.”

Valley also won the JV match 25-9, 25-15.

VALLEY DEF. WINAMAC, 25-12, 25-16, 25-18

Valley stats

Mallory Durkes – 9 kills, 3.5 blocks; Bree Sheetz – 6 kills; Macy Kirchenstien – 4 aces, 18 assists; Emily McGriff – 1 block; Colette Blackburn – 1 block; Brayden Baney – 10 digs

Winamac stats

Piper Link – 1 kill, 10 digs, 1 assist, 9 serves received; Alyssa Villanueva – 3 kills, 1 ace, 3 blocks, 11 digs, 1 assist, 10 serves received; McKenzie Hinz – 7 kills, 5 digs, 1 assist, 3 serves received; Kaya Campbell – 2 kill, 1 block, 15 digs, 7 assists; Sydney Thompson – 1 block, 2 digs, 5 serves received; Chloe Rausch – 4 digs, 2 assists, 7 serves received; Raegan Kasten – 5 digs, 1 assist, 7 serves received; Jewel Connor – 2 serves received

Valley JV stats

Mackaylie Costello – 3 kills, 6 aces; Maddie Thompson – 2 kills; Avery Wagoner – 4 aces; Karegan Callahan – 6 digs


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