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Miami County teams ready for Sectional openers

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

Sectional volleyball play begins Thursday night with both Peru and Maconaquah traveling to Western for their sectional openers while North Miami joins the tournament on the road at Rochester Saturday.

Here, the Peru Tribune takes a look at each of the three matchups for the Miami County Schools as postseason volleyball starts.

Thursday, October 12IHSAA Volleyball Class 3A Sectional No. 20 (Western)

Peru (6-25) v West Lafayette (16-10) 6 p.m.

Peru opens the sectional with the gatekeepers of Sectional No. 20 since its realignment in the 2011-12 school year.

The Red Devils won four-straight titles from 2011-2014 and have been forced out by the eventual sectional champions the past two years, Maconaquah in 2015 and Benton Central in 2016.

Despite that knowledge, Peru head coach Katie Wyant said the team was not fazed by who they drew.

“The mood was no different than if we had drawn any other team,” Wyant said about drawing West Lafayette. “Most of our varsity squad has one to three years of varsity experience so for some girls sectionals are new while for others, they know that is does not matter who we draw or who is on the other side of the net.

“We must prepare to be at our best when our best is needed, which is certainly at sectionals.”

Both teams come into the match on losing skids as Peru, shuffling its lineup to try and keep players healthy, dropped its last eight contests while West Lafayette has lost five in-a-row.

With both teams in a bit of a funk, Wyant said the number of road games the team had played lately would help with playing at a neutral venue.

“The entire last two weeks of our season has been on the road which has hopefully prepared us to play at an away sectional spot,” Wyant said. “We have had some usage injuries that we have rested and that shifted our entire line up for the last five games we played.

“Fortunately, everyone seems to be rested up and we just hope we can stay strong and healthy for our post season play.”

With three days to prepare for the sectional this week, Wyant said final tweaks to positioning and improvement handling serves was a key point of emphasis.

“We had our final regular season tournament on Saturday so we have taken the time this week to get some good reps on serve-receive and do some minor adjustments on rotations and defense,” Wyant noted. “We know West Lafayette has good volleyball players so we are polishing up some of our areas with the intention of making West Side work harder for each point.”

In recent outings, Peru has struggled to chain together runs of points while giving up those same runs in return.

Wyant said for the girls to play with West Lafayette, the team had to make rallies count instead of trading a point for two or three.

“We need to play for points and win rallies,” Wyant said. “We have played some good volleyball in the last two weeks but we aren’t always winning the points.

“If we get a point and then the other team gets two or three points, then we get a point or two followed by the other team getting two or three more points, the numbers just don’t come out with us winning. We need to play for each point and string together some rallies, we can bring a competitive game to open up sectionals on Thursday night.”

Thursday, October 12IHSAA Volleyball Class 3A Sectional No. 20 (Western)

Maconaquah (13-19) v Western (14-12) 7:30 p.m.

The second game at the Western sectional features a rematch between the host Panthers and Maconaquah of their September 19 meeting, one the Braves won 25-14, 18-25, 25-23, 25-22.

Maconaquah head coach Keeana Walton said the match came down to the service game for both teams.

“Serving was the name of the game,” Walton said. “That and handling eventually handling serve-receive was an important part of how we won the match.”

At the time, Maconaquah was beginning an upswing in play that turned around a 2-12 start to the season to a 13-19 finish.

The match with Western was near the beginning of the surge as the team had gone 3-1 at the Rossville Invitational and beaten Southwood two days prior.

Picking up wins helped to pick the team back up after a rough opening stretch with Walton noting the team began to up their intensity level every day.

“Our attitude and our hustle have continued to change since that match,” Walton said. “We’ve been working harder at practices and it’s showing on the court.

“We’ve displayed how well we can play when we put everything together.”

Maconaquah and Western have only met once in the current sectional, a 25-21, 25-16, 25-22 win for the Braves in 2014 when the current senior group were freshmen, though none featured in the match itself and only one, Grace Hann, saw significant time on the varsity roster.

As such, the match will be fresh for both teams in postseason play with Walton pointing to the pace of play as key for the team to advance to the semifinal on Saturday.

“Our tempo has to be faster,” Walton noted. “We have to have faster passes, run a faster offense, keep the tempo going and push through.”

Saturday, October 14IHSAA Volleyball Class 2A Sectional No. 37 (Rochester)

North Miami (28-3) v Rochester (28-4) 12:30 p.m.

Among the matches being contested in Class 2A, there may not be a more high-profile opener than the Warriors and Zebras tangling for a third time this season.

Rochester holds a 2-0 lead in the series this season, winning 25-22, 25-9 back on August 19 at the Tom-Hawk Invitational and again on September 21, taking a 25-14, 25-15, 22-25, 22-25, 15-8 win that for all practical terms won the team the TRC title.

Both meetings were at North Miami while the third will be at the home of the Zebras, though Warrior head coach Karise Kabage said location will not matter if the team doesn’t come out firing from the first serve.

“We’ve learned that we as a team have to come out ready to play and without the nerves,” Kabage said. “We can’t wait until the third set to play comfortable and relaxed.

“Rochester will have that home court advantage and fan base. We need to overcome that dynamic and play to win.”

The first meeting between the teams saw them play out a very tight first set with Rochester winning the set and using the emotion of the win to power through North Miami after both teams had played three prior matches during the day.

The Zebras looked for all intents to be sweeping the second meeting after a second-set breakdown seemed to signal a Warrior collapse.

Instead, North Miami came back to take the next two sets, requiring Rochester to come out with a blistering start to the fifth set to take the match in the end.

Kabage said preparing for the match had been as much about seeing what happened in the first two matches as it was actually putting in the physical work.

“We’ve been watching film and working on what we found success in during our previous match ups,” Kabage said. “It’s working on the small things that will set us apart.”

Having the Zebras deny the team three different titles in one season would be hard pill to swallow and Kabage said the team wanted this win as badly as it had wanted anything all season long.

“Our girls have been pumped and ready ever since we heard the draw,” Kabage said. “We wanted Rochester first.

“Our girls have worked so hard to get to this point, they will doing anything to beat this Rochester team.”