Pilgrims put Knox away in four

PLYMOUTH — The Lady Pilgrims entered the week at 0-2. Suddenly, with wins over LaVille Tuesday and Knox Thursday, they’re on a roll.
Plymouth’s volleyball team rallied back from a 20-13 deficit for a big 28-26 win in an extended game to and jump ahead two games on Knox, putting the visiting Lady Redskins away in four games, 25-15, 28-26, 21-25, 25-19, in a back-and-forth match at The Rock on Thursday night.
Thursday’s match was a non-conference contest between non-sectional foes — indeed the two teams can’t meet at any stage in the state tournament now with Plymouth bumped up to Class 4A in the new IHSAA classifications released last March — but saw inspired play by both teams. All total, the match featured a total of 16 ties and 12 lead changes with long rallies and numerous close calls in between.
“I think our girls were very focused on the rivalry between Knox and ourselves and just enjoying playing a really competitive team,” said Plymouth coach Doug West. “They’re good, and we know that because we played in their summer league... It’s a fun (rivalry). And I really enjoy working together with (Knox) coach (Jake) Skelley. He’s a good guy and a good coach, and we have a good relationship.”
“We’ve developed an awesome rivalry, which is something I’ve wanted since I came here 11 years ago,” echoed Skelley. “Now with Coach West it’s awesome that we’re able to do that, and I feel great. They come to our league, and it’s an awesome thing.”
The turning point of the match was game two as the Pilgrims battled back from a 20-13 deficit with an 8-1 run to cut Knox’s advantage to 21-20 before Cassie Quissell’s kill deep in the corner was nullified by the head ref on the stand.
That call momentarily killed Plymouth’s momentum, and Knox was able to surge ahead 23-21, but the Pilgrims regrouped to knot the game at 26-26 on an Emily Eveland kill, then put the game away with two straight points to go up two games to none on the Redskins.
“You’re always hoping as a coach your players will close out those close games, and you’re hoping your players will just play relaxed, keep the decisions real simple and real aggressive with no hesitation. Just play hard and play to win,” said West. “I felt like overall tonight, from point 18 to 25, we did a pretty good job of that, and I was just pleased with the girls and happy for them.”
“Everybody in the stands, every player got their money’s worth tonight,” said Skelley. “The rallies were phenomenal. It was just awesome volleyball, and you could tell every single player on the bench, every single player out on the floor wanted it, and that’s exactly what we look for. I was just proud of our kids. I was proud of Plymouth’s kids for bringing that kind of energy to the sport of volleyball that we all love so much.”
Knox battled back in game three as the visitors snapped a 19-19 tie late with six of the last nine points — highlighted by kills from Torie Elliot and Kara Howard — for a 25-21 victory, but Plymouth grabbed the early lead in the fourth set and held on throughout to close out the match in four, 25-19.
“Knox has a really well-coached team, they’re athletic, they know what they’re doing out on the court. They play to win; they’re very competitive,” said West. “For us to finish off that match and win in four, it’s a good thing for us at this point early in the season.
Plymouth was led at the net by sophomore Lacy Poczik, who finished with 10 kills and three blocks, while Hunter Stevens notched eight kills and three aces. Quissel finished with a match-high 29 digs to go with a pair of aces, Haley Harrell recorded 33 assists and 14 digs, and Emily Smith made 13 digs to buoy the Pilgrim defense in the win, which pushes the team to 2-2 headed into this weekend’s Powerball Tournament at home.
Knox was paced by Elliot’s all-around standout performance of 19 kills, 15 digs and five aces. while Kara Howard put away 14 kills with three aces, Kylie Bridegroom recorded 14 digs with five aces, and Cara Hasnerl passed out 22 assists with 12 digs.
“Torie Elliot just really shined, not only stat-wise but leadership-wise on the floor, just doing the little things that we need to have other people start to do, and it became contagious,” said Skelley. “It really started with her and ended with her tonight.”
Knox slipped to 2-6 and will open Northern State Conference play with Triton next Tuesday.
“We have a brutal first two weeks of our schedule; it’s the toughest schedule Knox has ever had,” said the Redskins boss. “We are playing New Prairie, Concord, South Bend St. Joe two nights ago, Plymouth, Michigan City Marquette, so we’re putting ourselves in position. We only have two returning starters from last years, everybody else, they’re older on paper but they really haven’t had a whole lot of experience on a varsity court, especially at this level. For us, it’s learning to play at that level, learning the speed on the game as well as becoming consistent.”
(25-15, 28-26, 21-25, 25-19)
At Plymouth
Plymouth stats
Kills: Lacy Poczik 10, Hunter Stevens 8
Aces: Stevens 3, Cassie Quissell 2
Assists: Haley Harrell 33
Digs: Quissell 29, Harell 14, Emily Smith 13
Blocks: Poczik 3, Libbie Portteus 3
Knox stats
Kills: Torie Elliott 19, Kara Howard 14
Aces: Elliott 5, Kylie Bridegroom 5, Howard 3
Assists: Cara Hasnerl 22
Digs: Elliott 15, Bridegroom 14, Hasnerl 12
Blocks: Rachel Lenig 3
Records: Plymouth 2-2, Knox 2-6.
JV score: Plymouth 2, Knox 0 (25-19, 25-17)