• Val T.

Valley volleyball drops home opener to Plymouth

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

AKRON — It’s not typical for the coach of the opposing team to applaud during the introduction of teams. But Plymouth volleyball coach Jon Hutton is not your typical opposing coach. He is a long-time teacher and administrator at Tippecanoe Valley. And for years, he was the volleyball coach at Valley. Valley’s home opener Wednesday just happened to be against Plymouth. Hutton knew every girl for whom he applauded.

Then the business of the match started, and most of the applause was saved for his team.

Plymouth beat Valley 25-13, 25-9, 25-18, pulling away in Game 3 after Valley tied the game

after falling behind 11-4. Valley, who lost their opener to sectional rival Wawasee on Tuesday, fell to 0-2. Valley’s Game 3 rally started with a Delaney Wagoner back row kill off the net before trickling over. Another back row kill made it 12-6. A Brayden Baney service winner and a kill error from Plymouth’s Maddy Figg made it 13-9.

A Wagoner kill that found the floor from the left side and a Macy Kirchenstien service winner

made it 14-12. A Sara Hunter kill error made it 14-13. When Plymouth was called for four hits, the game was tied. Valley stayed within 17-16 after a Wagoner ace.

Plymouth then countered with seven straight points to end any doubt.

“We had played a great game up to that point, and then they serve six balls in a row that we

could not handle in serve received,” first-year Valley coach Doug West said. “You can’t play

great volleyball if you can’t pass consistently getting the ball to your setter so that we can run an offense. That was a killer.” Plymouth relied on hitters Miranda German from the left and lefty swinger Hunter from the right. Clare Sheedy, a 6-0 setter, was a deft distributor.

“Plymouth is a very, very strong team,” West said. “A great serving team. And they have a really strong transition offense with a really great setter.” Sheedy’s lack of predictability with her sets made it hard to read her on defense. “She’s very deceptive and very precise with her setting as well,” West said. “And she has a lot of options because she has five hitters around her who are swinging hard and expecting the ball every time. ... You want your blockers to track with their attackers and at least get somewhat of a wall up so that we can defend around it. We just had trouble with the speed and precision of

their setting and attacking.” As for Valley’s offense, look for this year to be a showcase for Wagoner, a senior and an honorable mention all-Three Rivers Conference performer. West said Wagoner will “most certainly” get more swings in Valley’s offense, according to West. First-team all-TRC setter Hannah Engstrand is back for her senior season.

Hayley Backus will likely take on some of the middle hitter role, replacing the departed first-team all-TRC player Makenzie Woodcox and the honorable mention all-TRC player Amy Baca, both of whom graduated. “It seemed like we just couldn’t get her a lot of good swings,” West said of Wagoner. “We were out of system, and our passing wasn’t consistently strong. And that hurt us because we want her to be swinging consistently out on that left side, and that didn’t happen as consistently as we need it to happen tonight.”

For West, Valley is his fifth high school head coaching position, following stints at Plymouth,

Warsaw, Whitko and Goshen. He also has college coaching experience at Indiana University, the University of Nebraska and Grace College. “Coach West is an incredibly able coach,” Hutton said. “He’s very experienced. He knows what he’s doing. I think any time you change coaches — and I know this myself from last year coming to Plymouth — that there’s a huge dynamic to building relationships, and it takes a little while to get that going. And I think that coach West has got them on a road where they’re going to be successful.

“He certainly knows what he’s doing, and he’s got a tremendous set of athletes to work with.”

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