HUME – Tri-County's volleyball team sports a look of uniformity, from matching shoes to similar hairstyles.
Also helping the Titans look alike: Every player on the team is within 3 inches of one another.
They don't just look good before the match, however. They look even better playing the game.
Coach Sarah Ritchey's squad handled Cerro Gordo in a two-game sweep Thursday night, winning the Little Okaw Valley Conference tournament championship. The 27-25, 25-12 triumph was the team's 20th win of the season and the 12th in its last 13 matches.
Melanie Clapp, who landed a team-high six kills, credits the coach for the Titans' appearance.
"She wants us to look like a team," Clapp said.
The players spend their travel time fixing each other's hair in two French-braid ponytails.
"The girls are used to it, so it doesn't take too long," Clapp said.
Ritchey said the look eliminates one possible distraction.
"You don't have to worry about whose hair is falling apart," she said.
Cerro Gordo's hard-serving Broncos provided plenty of reason for concern in the opening game, when they served for game point. The Titans finished with a flourish – scoring the final three points – and then carried that into Game 2.
"We had all the momentum," Clapp said.
They also had the conditioning to hold strong the longer the match took. That's a point of emphasis for Ritchey.
"I don't want to lose for not being in shape," she said. "We do a lot of running. The girls run a mile every day before practice."
The coach makes sure they don't just go through the motions.
"The girls have to beat their best time," Ritchey said.
Some squad members, such as Kinsie Knox who had five kills against the Broncos, have gotten their time under six minutes.
When opponents, like Cerro Gordo, repeatedly fire shots to all sections of the court, Tri-County is able to quickly cover the territory.
"We're constantly running all over the place," Ritchey said.
Sadie Baird also had five kills for the Titans (20-8) in the title match. Jump-serving libero Tabitha Honnold served four of the team's 12 aces. Chelsee Blair had three aces.
Kortney Hatch led Cerro Gordo (14-6) with five kills and two blocks. Lindsey McMillen had six assists and three aces.
Kim Fortney pounded 15 kills – one more than Sangamon Valley's team – to lift Arcola past the Storm 25-10, 25-17.
"When she's on, she's hard to block," Arcola coach Kim East said. "She has a good eye for the holes."
Kylee Clark and Katie Thomas each had nine assists for the Purple Riders (14-10), who played Sangamon Valley for the first time. Paige Sosamon had seven digs, and Fortney led with three aces.
Chelsea Crowl had 10 kills and 11 digs, leading Bement past Heritage 25-10, 19-25, 25-16. Lindsey Pruitt had four kills and 11 digs for the Bulldogs (13-8).
Malinda Zellers had five kills for Heritage (8-15).