Vikings peaking at right timePublished 10:11pm Tuesday, October 30, 2012
The Niles volleyball team is peaking at the right time.
Vikings coach Jenny Nate was very complimentary of her team on Tuesday after a 25-14, 25-15, 25-21 Class A district opening round win over Portage Northern.
Niles, which improved to 30-11-5, will face either Mattawan or St. Joseph in a district semifinal match at 7 p.m. Thursday at Mattawan High School.
“Totally focused,” said Nate about her team’s play. “I feel like we peaked early in the season and were fired up and rolling. Then, we kind of hit a little bit of a valley. But, we have peaked again. Right now, it’s our mental edge. For the last week, we have focused as much time on our mental game as our physical game. We have chemistry right now that is magical.”
Momentum gained by finishing second last Saturday at the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference Tournament carried into Tuesday’s match.
Niles finished game one with a 14-3 run. Ashley Love’s kill clinched the opening game for the Vikings.
In game two, Niles jumped out to a 13-4 lead before Portage Northern rallied to pull within 16-12. Niles responded with a 9-3 run at the finish with another kill by Love providing the clinching point in game two.
Game three was most competitive as the Huskies jumped out to an 8-1 lead. Portage Northern began the game by scoring three points on service aces from Shannyn Smith.
Nate called a timeout after the Huskies took a 5-0 lead. It was the lone timeout in the match by Niles.
“Kind of gave our team a moment to bring it back in and remind them that we don’t focus on what happens on the other side of the net,” Nate said. “Our M.O. is the way we play and how we control the tempo. We need to focus on one pass, one hit and one set at a time.”
Niles scored the final six points in game three with Miranda Baker recording three service aces and Love providing a kill during that stretch.
Offensively, Niles got nine kills from Love and eight from Baker. Love and Baker also had five blocks apiece. Setter Cortney Shirrell had 25 assists.
“You can definitely see that we have a strong rotation,” Nate said. “Saturday, I had five hitters balanced in kills. That’s why we win. It’s a total team effort. No doubt, Ashley and Miranda are lethal at the net. Lashonda (Greene) and Kierra (Fillwock) have brought it on. We couldn’t be stopped on Saturday.”
Niles is winning with young players. Shirrell and Love are the lone Viking seniors.
“Our team has come such a long way,” said Shirrell. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve come together now and playing almost perfect. We’re doing great. We’ve picked it up at the right time.”
“Cortney is a silent leader,” Nate said. “She gets it done. I guess a lot of time the hitters get the glory because they’re so dominant. But without Cortney feeding them it wouldn’t happen.”
Class A District volleyball
Niles d. Portage Northern 3-0
Ashley Love (N) 10, Miranda Baker (N) 8, Lashonda Greene (N) 3, Kierra Fillwock (N) 2, Madeline Franks (PN) 4, Taylor Fender (PN) 2, Kristen Higgins (PN) 2, Kaylie Butt (PN) 2
Baker (N) 5, Love (N) 5, Greene (N) 2, Higgins (PN) 2
Baker (N) 4, Margaret Hoff (N) 1, Olivia Jordan (N) 1, Cortney Shirrell (N) 1, Fillwock (N) 1, Shannyn Smith (PN) 4, Courtney Mack (PN) 1, Franks (PN) 1, Butt (PN) 1
Shirrell (N) 25
Jordan (N) 2, Shirrell (N) 2, Smith (PN) 3, Butt (PN) 2