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Kokomo holds late edge to oust Peru in four sets

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

Coming in off the back of a win last week against Taylor, Peru’s volleyball team hosted a Kokomo team that was beginning to find its stride after a 0-5 start to the season.

The Wildkats had a bit extra down the stretch of the first two sets to build a 2-0 lead and though the Tigers responded by taking the third set, the visitors closed the match down in the fourth set to win 25-18, 25-21, 21-25, 25-19

Peru head coach Katie Wyant said the team had a much better showing against Kokomo than in recent meetings but couldn’t be content with just competing.

“We told the girls in the locker room that they fought with Kokomo for two sets and the thrill of winning the third set was great because this is a team that we haven’t competed with much in the past,” Wyant said. “To see the girls want to compete, get some points and get leads is good but being content with that is something we need to continue to push through.”

The first three sets all followed similar patterns in that by the middle of each set, the teams were scrapping for any point they could get.

Set one was even throughout first three-fourths of play as neither team developed more than a three-point lead until the match was tied at 17-17.

Peru’s play deteriorated quickly down the stretch as Kokomo scored the last six points without needing to do much more than get the ball over the net, winning the opener 25-18.

The Wildkats started off the second set with an 8-3 lead before the hosts stepped up their game and scored nine of the next 10 points to take a 12-9 lead.

Serving was a big part of the rally as Maegan Sinkovics recorded a pair of aces, two of the seven the Tigers notched during the match.

Wyant said the serving was good for much of the match but noted that receiving the serve was still an area to work on.

“Serving was an important part of the game,” Wyant noted. “Having the confidence to place the ball is something these girls have worked very hard for.

“To see the energy that comes from that is great but we also have to carry that over when we transition to serve-receive and we let (Kokomo) get a couple of points off their serve.”

As the pressure of the set wore on, errors became pronounced but Kokomo was able to hold their nerve, scoring seven of the last nine points to take the second set 25-21.

Peru got off to a much better start in the third set, holding an 8-2 lead before the Wildkats’ big hitters dragged the team back into the match, tying the set at 13-13.

The Tigers did not allow the lead to change hands, however, staying in front through the closing stretch and eventually capitalized on errors from the visitors to trim the match deficit to 2-1 with a 25-21 win.

The early start was crucial towards the set win according to Wyant.

“We got off to a better start than in the first two sets,” Wyant said. “The first two sets were neck-and-neck, point-for-point until we got to the high teens.

“In the third set, we got a run on them and then a second and while Kokomo tried to challenge that, we battled through it. We did tell the girls that we have to play like we’re winning when we’re actually winning.

“Sometimes, we play like we’re just still in it,” Wyant added. “We have to have confidence in our play and transfer that energy into the ball.”

A solid 5-3 start for Peru in the fourth set did not last long as Kokomo took the next eight points for an 11-5 lead.

The Wildkats brought as much heat as possible from along the front line and eventually wore down the Tiger defense, allowing the hosts to get no closer than 15-12 before turning on one last push to seal the set 25-19 and the match 3-1.

Wyant noted that the visitors went all-out on the attack late on to force the issue.

“One thing that stood out to me was that when Kokomo got the chance to attack the ball, they got bigger points than we did,” Wyant said. “We have to be able to get the ball back under control and run the offense.

“Our passing was off just enough that we couldn’t run the offense as consistently as we needed to. We need to strive to be fluent and consistent on that end.”

Peru hosts North Miami next Tuesday and Northwestern the following night, two large and aggressive attacking teams.

Wyant said much of the next few practices would be devoted to making sure the team understood where it needed to be on defense to counter a pair of teams that would bring plenty of attacking heat.

“Fortunately, we have a few practices between now and then and our focus will be how we can position the girls defensively,” Wyant said. “We’ll look at transitions on the net to get the girls in better spots to put up a block and get our defense feeling better.

“We have some girls in slightly different positions with a new rotation we have going right now. The girls are getting stuck behind the block a little bit and though out coverage is nice, we’re not getting the digs we need so that we can return a ball instead of just getting it back over.”