The Indian Hills volleyball team certainly isn’t packing it in as the postseason begins.
They are doing a lot of packing, however. The Warrior spikers are getting their bags packed for a long weekend stay in Illinois.
“Coach told us to pack our bags to stay until Sunday, so we’re planning on staying until Sunday,” sophomore setter Jessi Black said.
The three-day NJCAA District D super regional tournament gets underway today at Kaskaskia College, home of the Region 24 Blue Angels. Overall, five teams from Region 11 and Region 24 will descend on Centralia, Illinois for the double-elimination tournament which will reward one berth to the NJCAA Division I National Volleyball Tournament to the winner.
For the first time since 2005, IHCC hopes they can be the team that celebrates that berth when they return home to Ottumwa by the end of this weekend.
“The bags are as heavy as they’ve been all season,” Warriors head volleyball coach Lyndsey Lyon said. “We’re preparing for a long stay.”
IHCC’s postseason gets underway with the team hosting the tournament as Kaskaskia will take on the Warriors on their home floor. The match will be second of the entire super regional with fourth-ranked Iowa Western playing in the third match of the day against the winner of the opening match between Lakeland and John A. Logan.
It would be hard for Indian Hills, or any team in the tournament, not to focus on the Reivers who come to Illinois looking to earn their seventh straight national tournament berth. The Warriors know all about the regional triumphs of Iowa Western as the Reivers have helped end several IHCC seasons over that seven-year span.
Indian Hills cannot afford to focus on Iowa Western yet, however. Lyon wants her team’s complete focus on their opening opponent.
“We cannot overlook Kaskaskia. They’re on top of their region for a reason,” Lyon said. “It’s looks like a dead-even matchup. As far as records and most of the statistics go, we’re very evenly matched.”
The Blue Angels and Warriors are also coming into postseason play on high notes. Kaskaskia won their final eight matches of the regular season and are a perfect 13-0 on their home floor.
Like the Warriors, Kaskaskia (32-6) is led by a solid attack at the net with sophomore hitter Brooke Maxey leading the way, scoring 3.5 points a game with a team-best 206 kills. Statistics on paper will be all Indian Hills will have for a scouting report on how to attack the Blue Angels.
“We haven’t played Kaskaska and we don’t have any footage on them,” Warrior sophomore Emily Eswonia said.
“We just have to go off of what coach says about them,” Black added.
Of course, if preparing for defending a team that can attack well at the net, the Warriors are their own perfect opponent. IHCC comes in averaging 11.98 kills a set, almost 4.5 more then the Blue Angels, and are led by Peyton Crosser’s 310 kills while Eswonia, Carla Novaes and Cristaine Vosconcoles all have over 200 kills on the season.
With those kind of various attackers, IHCC (28-9) has been able to prepare for the Blue Angels through intense intrasquad scrimmages this week in practice.
“All of us have a ton of ability and it’s all about competition out there with us,” Black said. “We’re all good and playing against each prepares us as much as anything.”
“This week’s practices have definitely been a lot tougher,” Eswonia added. “Coach has really been pushing us to get us ready in case we have to play a lot of matches this weekend.”
Indian Hills depth was challenged in the final few weeks of the regular season as injuries and illness sidelined a key players in key matches. The last of the injuries came this past weekend when sophomore Arika Johnson suffered a concussion during IHCC’s second match of the Jefferson College Tournament.
The Warriors rallied back from the loss of Johnson and a tough five-game loss to No. 12 Missouri State-West Plains to complete a three-win weekend with victories over No. 17 Hutchinson, Seminole State and the host Vikings. It’s that kind of success that has Indian Hills heading into postseason play with plenty of confidence.
“We just played all weekend with a lot of togetherness. It was really fun to watch,” Lyon said. “It’s going to be tough, but when going gets tough the tough gets going. I want the girls to keep having fun and finish the season off in a great way.”