OTTUMWA — It's been one full week since the Indian Hills volleyball has been on the floor for a match.
That long layoff between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason has made it start to feel like a ‘second season’ is truly about to begin for the Warrior spikers. It’s also made the Warriors somewhat restless with nothing to do but practice for the District D Super Regional Tourney.
Because of that, it isn’t hard to tell when the IHCC volleyball team has been at practice this week in the Tom Arnold Net Center.
“We’re just down here trying to get focused for the postseason, but we’re also trying to have some fun this week,” sophomore liebro Kassidy Guihan said. “Today (Wednesday), we wore crazy t-shirts to practice. We’re just trying to mix things up.”
“We’ve changed the pace up a little bit this week and made practice a lot more fun,” IHCC head volleyball coach Lyndsey Lyon added. “You get to this point of the season, bodies are tired. I think a lot of girls that might have had injuries earlier in the season are starting to feel better. I think the girls are really getting better prepared for the postseason.”
After a week of making plenty of noise during practice, the Warrior spikers are hoping to make just as much noise this weekend in Council Bluffs. After a 17-21 regular season, IHCC is hoping to be a surprise national tournament qualifier by outlasting five other teams that will compete at Kanesville Arena in the double-elimination district tournament.
“I think everyone here really wants it,” sophomore Peyton Crosser said. “If each of us does our part, we can be pretty successful this weekend.”
Second-year head coach Lindsey Lyon has certainly noticed a change in the attitude of her team this week as they prepare for postseason play. Besides the urgency of four sophomores who will be playing to extend their IHCC volleyball playing days, a host of freshmen that have gone through the rigors of the regular season are also expected to start playing at that two-year level.
“I told the freshmen this week that they are no longer freshmen,” Lyon said. “They have to start playing like sophomores and setting that tone for the kind of leaders they want to be by next year.”
“I definitely don’t think our sophomores want their careers to be over with either. Certainly I don’t want it to be over for them,” Lyon added. “Shelby (Lauterbach) and Peyton give us a great presence at the net. Kassidy and Kaylee (Scholten) work just as hard every day in the back row. They all push their teammates. They’re a fun group to have. They all make their teammates better every day.”
Guihan talked about that urgency of playing to keep her IHCC playing career alive this weekend.
“I really haven’t tried to think about it, but it is amazing that we’re already to that point of the year,” Guihan said. “One minute, you’re just getting ready to start the season, then you’re in the middle of it and it flies by to this point. You realize that the regular season over and it’s our time now. There are only four of us, but we have to do it now.”
For the second straight year, IHCC will open district postseason play against Illinois school Kaskaskia. The two teams met twice last year in the district tournament with the opening match turning into a thriller as the Warriors won a five-game battle 13-25, 25-20, 24-26, 25-13 and 15-8.
After losing to Region XI and District D kingpin Iowa Western the following day, IHCC advanced to the district finals by sweeping Kaskaskia out of the tournament with a 25-19, 25-13, 25-18 win. Those eight games from last year are all Warrior spikers have for a scouting report on the 17-17 Blue Angels of Centralia.
“That’s about all we know about Kaskaskia. We just hope that we can carry that momentum forward into (today’s) match,” Guihan said.
“(Kaskaskia) is a solid team. Every team we play from this point forward is going to be a solid team,” Crosser added. “In volleyball, it can really go either way. Whoever is on can pull it off.”
Being on has been a bit of struggle at times throughout the regular season, however, for the IHCC spikers. The Warriors split 18 neutral-site matches, a dozen matches on the road and were a surprising 2-6 this season on the home floor at the Net Center.
Indian Hills also hasn’t had more than a three-match winning streak this year, but also hasn’t lost more than three straight matches at any point. The Warriors will need to meet somewhere in the middle, and stay on that consistent level, if they hope to make a run to the program’s first national tournament appearance since 2005.
“We have to be able to consistently set the ball in the middle and consistently set up our attack,” Lyon said. “If we can consistently set up players like Peyton at the net, that’s going to be huge for us.”
Lakeland would be the team that would await IHCC should they beat Kaskaskia today. That match would take place at 6 p.m. Four straight wins would send the Warriors to Casper, Wyoming, but the double-elimination format of the six-team tournament might also require Indian Hills to have to play up to seven matches over three days including potentially three must-win matches in a row on Sunday to earn a berth to the national tournament.
In other words, besides being consistent the Warriors will have to be ready physically to battle through a long weekend of action on the court.
“We know there are two teams there, Lakeland and Iowa Western, that are going to be tough to beat,” Guihan said. “We’ve worked on our conditioning. We know we have to have our bodies ready to go five games whenever possible. We have to be a consistent team if we hope to keep playing after this weekend.”
With a fourth-ranked Iowa Western team that has already beaten IHCC twice this year and a solid Lakeland squad that also has a three-game win over the Warriors, the odds are not exactly in favor of the ladies from Ottumwa. From the start of the season, however, Indian Hills volleyball players have been looking to overcome the odds and accomplish the goal of qualifying for the national tournament.
To do it this weekend against this field would do a lot in reestablishing the national presence of the Warrior volleyball program.
“Everyone here wants to go to nationals more than anything,” Crosser said. “It’d be so great for the program to finally get Indian Hills volleyball back to nationals.”
“I told the girls if we make it to nationals, practice is definitely going to be even more fun,” Lyon added.
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