Valley falls to Southwood, finishes in 3rd in TRC
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
AKRON –- Don’t mess with Marissa Metzger.
The host Tippecanoe Valley volleyball team discovered a hard lesson from the Southwood senior during their Three Rivers Conference volleyball match on Oct. 7.
Metzger had 20 kills while the entire Valley team was held to 17, and Southwood went on to win 25-23, 25-7, 25-17 to win the Three Rivers Conference title outright with a 9-0 conference record.
Southwood had already clinched a share of the crown going into the match. Valley could have shared the TRC with a win. Wabash also had a shot at a title share, but they needed to beat Peru and hope for a Valley win.
As it turned out, Wabash beat Peru 25-15, 25-11, 25-20 to finish 8-1 and earn second place outright. Valley, who was 6-0 at one point, finished third at 7-2.
Senior Mallory Durkes had seven of Valley’s 17 kills. Ava Smith and Mackaylie Costello had four kills each.
Brayden Baney had four aces and 28 digs from her libero spot. Abby Koch had 12 digs, and the freshman duo of Avery Wagoner and Costello had 10 digs each. Macy Kirchenstien and Durkes had one block each. Kirchenstien also had 11 assists.
Valley’s best run of the match might have been at the outset. They got off to a 6-1 lead in Game 1 as the Southwood back row seemed baffled by Durkes’ deep serves, three of which they mishandled in a row as they seemed unsure whether to pass them or let them travel out of bounds.
Valley led 9-5 after back-to-back kills from sophomore sniper Smith. Southwood would then score five straight points, and the game remained tight – tied at 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21.
A Grace Drake kill and Metzger stuff gave Southwood a 23-21 lead. Alaina Winer’s service error into the net gave Valley the serve back, but Metzger’s deep tip got Southwood to set point.
Valley sophomore Colette Blackburn’s kill made it 24-23, but Metzger shot down a kill from the back row to close out the set.
“Possibly,” Valley first-year coach Ashley Derf said when asked if the match would have turned out differently if the Lady Vikings had won the first set. “All season, that’s kind of our theme: We come out really strong and really hard. We kind of died down a little bit, and then we tried to battle back, but (against) a team like Southwood, you can’t do that. You’ve got to come out hard the whole time and stay that way, and we just didn’t do that.”
Southwood buried Valley with a 17-1 run in the second set. The only point during that run for Valley came when Alaina Winer dumped a serve into the net. Metzger had three kills, and Drake had two during the run.
Valley trailed 16-11 in the third set before scoring four straight points. Winer missed a serve, Southwood was called for a double hit, Drake was called for a net violation, and Durkes landed an ace.
But Southwood responded with five straight points.
Metzger had seven more kills in the third set.
“There’s a lot of talent there and a lot of power there,” Derf said. “It was tough. You make an adjustment, and she would counter that.”
Derf said she wants her younger players to be hungry after this loss. Not even Derf, a Valley grad who played her prep volleyball for Jon Hutton, remembers the last time Valley won any part of a TRC volleyball title.
And Valley has never won a sectional volleyball title.
Derf said Valley needs to be a better blocking team as Metzger did not see enough Valley net presence.
Valley might be favored against West Noble, a team they beat in straight sets on Aug. 19, in their Class 3A, Sectional 21 quarterfinal at Lakeland Thursday. If they win, they would play Jimtown, a team they knocked out of last year’s sectional, in the semifinal on Saturday.
Wins over West Noble and Jimtown could lead to a potential sectional final matchup with NorthWood. NorthWood beat Valley in three sets in their regular season meeting, and NorthWood beat Wawasee Thursday to wrap up the Northern Lakes Conference title with a perfect 7-0 record.
That’s where a more impactful block would come into play, according to Derf.
“We need to block the ball more if we want to get into the sectional championship game against NorthWood,” Derf said. “They’ve got big hitters. Really big hitters. So we’ve got to get our block. That way, our back row is not getting beat up so much.”
Southwood def. Tippecanoe Valley, 25-23, 25-7, 25-17
Mackaylie Costello – 4 kills, 1 ace, 10 digs, 1 assist; Mallory Durkes – 7 kills, 2 aces, 1 block, 4 digs; Colette Blackburn – 2 kills; Ava Smith – 4 kills, 2 digs; Brayden Baney – 4 aces, 28 digs, 1 assist; Abby Koch – 1 ace, 12 digs; Macy Kirchenstien – 1 block, 8 digs, 11 assists; Avery Wagoner – 10 digs, 2 assists; Emma Patrick – 3 digs; Sidney Nelson – 1 dig
The Tippecanoe Valley volleyball team will play West Noble in a Class 3A, Sectional 21 quarterfinal at Lakeland at 6 p.m. Thursday. Valley comes into postseason play with an 18-10 record. They went 7-2 in the Three Rivers Conference and finished in third place.