Valley volleyball tops shorthanded Winamac
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
AKRON — The Tippecanoe Valley volleyball team is getting healthier. Winamac is trying to get healthy.
Their paths crossed at Valley’s gym Tuesday, and the healthier Lady Vikings won 25-20, 25-10, 25-17.
Delaney Wagoner led Valley with 13 kills, and Bree Sheetz returned to the lineup and provided eight kills.
Meanwhile, Winamac played without seniors Maggie Smith and Aubrey Gearhart. The 6-0 Smith is Winamac’s most experienced varsity player, and Gearhart is their setter. Kaya Campbell, normally the libero, filled in for Gearhart.
Winamac coach Heather Kasten said Smith and Gearhart missed the match because they were being quarantined. She added that Smith and Gearhart have tested negative for the virus, but contact tracing determined that Smith and Gearhart got near a Winamac student that did test positive. Smith and Gearhart are eligible to return Aug. 31.
Winamac canceled all its sporting events last week after that student tested positive for COVID-19.
Winamac’s football and JV football games scheduled for this week have already been canceled, but other Winamac sports are returning to action.
Winamac went 1-2 at its season-opening Winamac Invitational Aug. 15. They beat Twin Lakes but lost to North White and New Haven. They hadn’t played a competitive match since. Monday marked their first practice in 10 days.
“Even my freshmen would tell you that was ugly,” Kasten said laughingly when asked if her team was rusty.
Their passing might have been a sign that things aren’t yet back to normal. Still, the match gave valuable experience to players like junior outside hitters Ella Gearhart and Alyssa Villanueva, sophomore opposite hitter Sydney Thompson and 6-0 sophomore middle hitter McKenzie Hinz.
“We struggled a little bit tonight,” Kasten said. “It’s a brand new lineup that we just ran through yesterday, having last week taken off for COVID precautions. Losing two of our leaders on the court in Maggie Smith and Aubrey Gearhart definitely hurt us, but I really felt like some of the girls stepped up, and we have some things we can work on definitely for serve received.”
Though Smith might be thought of as a middle hitter, she is also an effective all-court player, according to Kasten. She can terminate plays from the back row and is also a top server and passer.
“Just being able to run Maggie all the way around and have that extra set of hands in the front row and back row is going to be huge for us,” Kasten said.
Valley improved to 1-2 with the win. Valley lost to Wawasee and Plymouth last week. A third match scheduled against West Noble was postponed after the death of a West Noble student in an auto accident.
When senior setter Hannah Engstrand wasn’t setting up hitters like Wagoner and Sheetz, she was handcuffing Winamac with her serves. Fellow seniors Mackenzie Costello and Ashley Butler saw an increase in playing time. Costello is an opposite hitter, and Butler is a defensive specialist, often teaming with libero Brayden baney in the back row.
Sophomore Emily McGriff is a varsity newcomer who joined Hayley Backus in giving the Lady Vikings more presence in the middle.
Sophomores Shaylin Wilcox and Karli Hogue are varsity newcomers also making an impact.
Valley coach Doug West was unavailable for comment after the match.
Valley travels to Whitko for their Three Rivers Conference opener Thursday.