Tri-County focused on finishing strong
NORMAL — A new day won’t bring a change of attitude for Tri-County setter Amber Meyer.
“I’ll be as excited to be out there as I was today,” Meyer said.
Friday’s excitement of participating in the Class 1A volleyball state tournament for the Titans was tempered by the end of the state’s longest winning streak. Rockford Keith Country Day dealt Tri-County a 25-23, 25-18 semifinal loss at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena.
When the Titans — who had their 32-match winning streak snapped — return to action Saturday at 9 a.m., it will be in the IHSA third-place match against Valmeyer.
Coach Drew Robertson doesn’t expect his 35-3 team to have difficulty regrouping.
“They’ll forget about the disappointment and will be ready to go,” Robertson said. “It’s still third. It’s still a big deal.”
The biggest deal in Tri-County’s state semifinal debut was a late point that evolved into a point of contention.
With the first set deadlocked 23-23, Tri-County’s Abby Smith went over the net and stuffed a hit by the Cougars’ Morgan Luther. It was a clean block at an open net, but instead of a point for Tri-County, Rockford Keith was awarded the point because Smith’s reach extended over the net.
Robertson called a timeout and used the break to appeal to the head referee to reverse her call.
“To me, it was a misinterpretation of the rules that shouldn’t have happened,” Robertson said. “The rules clearly say you can penetrate the net if no one is there.
“When the girls see me arguing, and not getting our way, it has an effect.”
On the next serve, Rockford Keith won the first set with a kill.
The Titans stayed in contention in the second set until unraveling at the end. Four of the team’s final five serves were errant.
“When you’re trying to make a comeback,” Robertson said, “that won’t get it done.”
The Titans’ Lizzy Barnard matched Michigan recruit Adeja Lambert for kills with eight apiece. Tri-County’s Kyla Skinner had six kills.
The aura and atmosphere at state requires an adjustment.
“It’s a little different,” Barnard said. “The lights are definitely brighter than in a normal gym.”
Robertson coached at state before (with Toledo Cumberland in 2008), but he emphasized it’s not the same to simply know what to expect.
“You can talk to players about it, but it’s hard to prepare for it until you’ve experienced it,” Robertson said. “A lot of it has to do with nerves. Tomorrow we should relax.”
Though disappointed by Friday’s outcome, Robertson retains a positive view of the state experience.
“The IHSA puts on a first-class operation,” he said. “You feel like a star when you’re here.”
Meyer, who had 13 assists, said she wouldn’t rather trade places with a setter from a team not at state.
“We didn’t play our game,” she said, “but we’ll be fine. I’m happy to be here.”
Skinner had nine digs, tying for the most in either Class 1A match with the Cougars’ Alex Nunez. Autumn Meyer landed a service ace in each set.
“Tri-County was very tough defensively,” Rockford Keith coach Lynn Cesario said. “They’re a fast, quick team. We knew what we had to do to pull it off. Once we were able to pass and run an offense, we were able to focus on our side of the net.”