RHS shakes off Game 2 woes, beats Winamac in 4
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
For the second time in three days, the Rochester volleyball team lost the second game of a home match.
And for the second time in three days, they recovered to win the match.
They did it to Wabash in a Three Rivers Conference match Tuesday, and they did to Winamac in a nonconference match Thursday, beating the Lady Warriors 25-21, 20-25, 25-16, 25-13.
RHS jumped out to a 9-2 run in Game 3 thanks to a Molly Conley serving run. Winamac stayed within 17-13 thanks to an Alyssa Villanueva ace, a Maggie Smith stuff block and a Smith roll shot into the deep corner.
But RHS outscored Winamac 8-3 to close out the game.
Hannah Houston had three kills, Conley had a stuff block, and Kaitlin Rogers had a kill off an overpass.
Leading 11-9 in Game 4, RHS went on a 9-1 run to push the lead to 20-10. Emily Hughes went down the right sideline for a kill, Rogers had two kills, Carlee Blackburn had a kill after a botched Winamac dig, then came a Rogers flat-footed kill, a Conley ace, an Alexa Kouskousakis kill, a Rogers kill and a Conley ace.
At 22-13, the match would end with a Kouskousakis flat-footed kill, a Houston kill and a Kenzie Bradley ace.
“I don’t know,” RHS coach Erin Leap said. “We weren’t prepared to play Game 2. I don’t know what happened. I have no explanation. … You get the momentum going your way, and it’s a lot easier to play well, and we just couldn’t get any momentum going in Game 2 at all.”
The Lady Zs’ top three attackers – Rogers, Houston and Hughes – forced Winamac to
defend the entirety of the court.
“That was the one thing coming into today,” Winamac coach Heather Kasten said. “I told my girls we have to be ready for all three hitters. … We did a very good job the first two sets of defending that, especially with our block. I think we started to get tired, and we fell off on our heels a little bit, and it showed up on the scoreboard.”
Said Leap of the hitting variety: “We have been working on hitting certain areas of the court in practice. We don’t practice hitting line a lot just because normally teams will block line and will give you crosscourt. But tonight, our matchups allowed our taller girls able to hit line over that block, so they took advantage of it. They were digging line, but I told them they’ve still got to dig it. So if it’s there, go ahead and take it.”
Kouskousakis has been filling in for the injured Lexy Thomas and providing even more variety.
“She’s done a great job,” Houston said. “I’m super proud of her. She can hit right side, outside, and she’s just getting kills everywhere, and her block is really good. … It’s really hard because she doesn’t have a lot of varsity experience, and she’s just done a really great job.”
Smith is a force at middle blocker for Winamac and provided an obstacle for Houston.
“It is tough because you have to see the block and get around it, especially if there is a double block like there was tonight,” Houston said. “And then towards the end about Game 3 or 4, Molly started leading me so I could get around the other way. So that helped.”
Gearhart, Campbell stepping up for Winamac
Aubrey Gearhart is in her first year as a varsity setter for Winamac. She played setter in a 6-2 system on the JV last year.
“She dressed for sectionals for me last year, but she just served and played defense,” Kasten said. “I’m very happy with how much she’s put on her shoulders and helped lead the team and just wants to do her best. And I’m very proud of her.”
Kasten also complimented libero Kaya Campbell.
“I call her my little bulldog,” Kasten said. “She’s going to go after everything with everything that she has.”