Titans send seniors out on winning note
NORMAL — Drew Robertson knew this day would be different. It was Saturday.
“This year,” the Tri-County volleyball coach said, “we were 0-3 on Fridays and 36-0 on every other day.”
The Titans capped the winningest season for any Oakland or Kansas team, sweeping Valmeyer 25-15, 25-21 in the Class 1A IHSA third-place match at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena.
Tri-County had a 52-set winning streak snapped in Friday’s semifinals but bounced back for the program’s 26th two-set sweep in the season’s last 27 matches. The results were better than the overall quality of play.
“I’m happy we won,” said Abby Smith, who had three kills and a block, “but we’ve had much better games. I wish we would have showed what we could have done.”
Robertson attributed a part of the showing to nerves, but added, “I’m not sure how long it would take to get used to passing in this big arena, but we didn’t get there today. We toughed out some points.”
In the first set, 26 of the combined 40 points scored were attributed to errors by the opposing team. Tri-County’s final two points were courtesy of service errors by the Pirates.
“It’s important any time you take the floor to come out trying to win,” Robertson said. “We haven’t played our best this weekend, but it’s tough to play in the morning (9 a.m. third-place match) and in this arena.
“Being able to win for the seniors, who we will say goodbye to after today, is special.”
One Titan virtually immune from mistakes in the match was Lizzy Barnard. She swatted a match-high 12 kills and registered a match-high .476 hitting efficiency. Barnard also served a match-high three aces.
“Of our passers, she had some of the best first touches,” Robertson said. “Her and Kyla (Skinner) got some out-of-system sets and were able to put the ball away.”
Skinner totaled six kills and six digs.
For Autumn Meyer — one of three quads on the volleyball team (the fourth is a boy) — Saturday was a serious case of deja vu.
“It’s like junior high all over again,” Meyer said. “It’s exciting being here with people I’ve been with since fifth grade.”
That deja vu?
As eighth-graders in 2008, the Meyers were on a team that qualified for state, lost to Mount Pulaski in the semifinals and salvaged third place a day later. The scenario was the same one that played out this weekend.
Valmeyer coach Jenny Kohnz sensed one difference in Saturday’s teams. Her 28-11 squad was making its state debut.
“Confidence,” Kohnz said.
Tri-County broke a 4-4 first-set deadlock with a five-point spree. Smith expected good things to continue.
“Once we got ahead, I was like, ‘We’ve got this,’ ” Smith said. “We were real nervous, but we were way more nervous yesterday.”
The state trophy is the first for Tri-County but the fifth for the schools that make up the all-sports co-op. Kansas earned four trophies in Class 1A between 1992 and 1998.
The program’s previous record for single-season wins (35) was shared by Kansas teams of 1996, 1997 and 1998. With Saturday’s finish, Tri-County has cemented its own identity.
“We wanted to show the state the type of volleyball we can play,” Robertson said. “We did a fair job. We had a decent amount of blocks (four).”
Four Tri-County seniors ended their prep careers with a win: Amber, Ami and Autumn Meyer along with Skinner. Amber Meyer had a match-high 18 assists and a team-high seven digs.