Recovered Kouskousakis leads Rochester past Lewis Cass
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Rochester senior all-Three Rivers Conference volleyball player Alexa Kouskousakis was playing at an open gym in April when she landed wrong on her left knee.
Doctors performed an MRI. She had suffered a torn ACL and needed surgery.
“Things happen,” Kouskousakis philosophized.
After a summer of rehab, she was ready for the start of practice. Once again, she is back leading her Lady Z teammates, and this year, she is getting off the floor more than ever on her repaired knee as she recorded a team-high 11 kills, a team-high 11 assists, a team-high-tying two aces, 13 digs and two serves received as Rochester beat sectional rival Lewis Cass 25-19, 25-21, 25-13 at the RHS gym Tuesday.
Kennedy Leap and Lillee Lett had seven kills each. Leap also had two aces. Lett also had 10 digs and 10 assists. Rily Holloway had 21 digs and 17 serves received, both team highs.
Rochester was playing for the first time in five days. They lost in three sets to Culver Academy Thursday, but coach Erin Leap said that practices since have focused on improving communication.
“CGA wasn’t fun by any means,” coach Leap said. “And then we had a pretty good practice on Friday, just really trying to figure some things out and change some defensive things. And then Saturday was a great practice, and Monday was a great practice. And I feel like all of our hitters are a little more confident – left, middle and right. Everybody that is hitting at the net just has a little more confidence and knows where they need to go and what they’re good at. And I just feel like everybody’s finally relaxing and having fun.”
Kouskousakis, who echoed the idea of better recent practices, had her surgery May 6. She wears a sleeve over her entire left leg. She said she wears it for support.
“I’m four months post-surgery,” Kouskousakis said. “I’m happy to be back on the court.”
She said she attacked her rehab like all of her other endeavors.
“I went a couple days a week,” Kouskousakis said. “You know, I just went in there and worked my knee out. I just try my best in everything I do. It wasn’t too bad.”
Rochester led 16-15 in Game 1 when they went on a 6-0 run to extend the lead behind Kennedy Leap’s serving. The run also included a well-placed two-handed tip from the right side from Kylee Freant, and Kennedy Leap capped the run with a clean ace.
Kouskousakis had a kill to get it to set point, and when Lewis Cass libero Dixie Wagoner put a flat-footed kill attempt into the net, Rochester had the game.
Rochester trailed 19-16 in Game 2 before finishing on a 9-2 run. A Lewis Cass ding-dong play, a Lett kill off the block and a Kouskousakis dump into the center of the court tied the game and necessitated a Lady King timeout.
But it did not stop the run.
Holloway landed a clean ace, Ava Hubner missed on a kill attempt for Lewis Cass, and Holloway added another service winner to give the Lady Zs a 22-19 lead.
Rochester had five aces for the match, but coach Leap praised her team’s servers, saying they frequently got Lewis Cass to fork over free balls that set up the offense.
“I even had some girls be like, ‘I can’t get the ace,’ but they’re giving us free balls off them, so it’s successful,” coach Leap said. “So I think that our service pressure was really good for us tonight.”
At 23-21, Kennedy Leap’s kill from the middle, and Maci Garland’s kill error into the net for Lewis Cass ended the game.
In Game 3, two serving runs from Lett and a four-point serving run from Kouskousakis which included another dump helped Rochester to an 18-8 lead.
Lewis Cass scored four straight points to get within 18-12, but a Kennedy Leap kill just inside the baseline ended the run and started a 6-0 Rochester counteroffensive that included an Audrey Bolinger stuff block, a Kouskousakis kill, and two Bolinger kills.
The match ended later on a Kouskousakis roll shot.
Rochester improved to 3-6, but this was their first win in a best-of-five match. Their other two wins came in best-of-three Saturday tournaments.
“I love hitting,” Kouskousakis said of her new role in a two-setter system, which requires her and Lett to both set and attack. “Lillee’s a great setter. I think she does a great job. This is her first year setting, and she’s doing a fantastic job. So I like it.”
That she can focus on thriving in the new system is a sign of progress.
Kouskousakis said she did exercises to strengthen the knee over the summer. Twelve weeks after the surgery, she received medical clearance to begin playing again. That was just in time for volleyball practice, which began Aug. 1.
“I’m not worried,” Kouskousakis said. “It is what it is. I’m doing pretty good.”
Rochester sophomore Darah Strasser made her season debut. She had been out due to a family medical emergency and had to complete 10 practices in order to be eligible.
She had a kill, a dig and a serve received off the bench.
“She asked me the same thing yesterday, and I said I’m really not sure yet,” coach Leap said when asked what Strasser’s role will be. “She does well in the front row. She does well in the back row. I just have to figure out what’s going to work best for the team right now. So I’m just going plugging her in here and there, and we’re going to see what sticks.”
Rochester def. Lewis Cass, 25-19, 25-21, 25-13
Kylie Coleman – 1 kill, 3 digs, 1 assist, 2 serves received; Kennedy Leap – 7 kills, 2 aces, 2 digs; Darah Strasser – 1 kill, 1 dig, 1 serve received; Kylee Freant – 1 kill, 1 dig; Alexa Kouskousakis – 11 kills, 2 aces, 13 digs, 11 assists, 2 serves received; Lillee Lett – 7 kills, 10 digs, 10 digs, 5 serves received; Audrey Bolinger – 3 kills, 1 block; Rily Holloway – 1 ace, 21 digs, 17 serves received; Emma Sells – 3 digs, 1 serve received; Mia Howdeshell – 2 digs, 2 assists, 5 serves received
JV: Rochester def. Lewis Cass, 15-25, 25-17, 15-13
Rochester JV stats
Mia Howdeshell – 6 kills, 2 aces, 15 digs; Rylee Clevenger – 2 aces, 23 digs, 16 serves received; Haley Durkes – 2 aces, 12 digs, 10 assists
Watch Rochester vs Lewis Cass Match Here: