Conference wins count for the state tournament. Losing to top-tier teams’ counts for something altogether different — but equally important. St. Thomas More is the cream of the crop in volleyball, and though Indian River lost in three straight matches, something was earned and learned according to Head Coach Jess Dodd.
“St. Thomas More is ranked sixth in the state and played very well throughout the game,” said Dodd. “But we stuck with them in the second game despite losing the first. Even though we lost in three games, there were some positives.”
The Lady Indians’ middles earned an education against the perennial powerhouse, but it’s something that they can use as the season goes on. Indian River’s middles haven’t seen fakes to the middle yet this season and often times were out of position.
“St. Thomas runs their offense from the middle, and our middles haven’t seen that kind of action this season,” said Dodd. “They only scored five or six points from the outside.”
“Kelly (Jurusik) had a lot of kills against St. Thomas and a lot of touches on blocks but they would keep it alive. Renee would block a fake attempt and have to recover for another attempt,” said Dodd. “The girls had a chance to see how the game is supposed to be played.”
St. Thomas More runs an intricate offense that sets up a middle for a kill but is only a fake. That same player will then rotate to the backside, where the outside player will set them up for the kill. Dodd admitted that his team isn’t fancy. But, to win, his players have to execute and keep a prepared mindset.
“I like to keep it simple,” said Dodd. “We need to be great at one thing and execute — simple outside sets and keep it high in the middle. But we have to stay up for the entire match. Mistakes are OK, but if you let that bad pass or error spill over, then that’s a series of points and then the other team didn’t earn it — we gave it to them. We have to give 100 percent all the time.”
Indian River gave 100 percent against conference rival Cape Henlopen on Oct. 6 and won all three games, to win the match. Cape had lost a couple of their starters to injury for the season but, “A win’s a win,” in Dodd’s book, “and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Indian River’s win over Cape Henlopen combined with the loss to St. Thomas More keeps the Lady Indians even at 5-5 as they approach a heavy week of work.
The Lady Indians were set to host a series of home matches through the weekend, starting with a home match versus Smyrna on Oct. 13.
On Saturday, Oct. 15, the Lady Indians will host six teams for the Indian River Challenge – a mini round-robin tournament in which each team is guaranteed three matches with the best two records advancing to the championship.
Indian River will get a good look at Sussex Central that Saturday, leading into their Oct. 18 match-up, when the team will travel to the Lady Knights’ gymnasium for possible second match-up.
Dover, Poly Tech, William Penn and Dickinson fill out the remainder of the teams competing in the Indian River Challenge. The tournament will start at 9 a.m. on Oct. 15 and run until about 4 p.m.