by Kyle Koso
If Kristin Perkins had to watch her team get bounced from the 13 Elite title match at the Triple Crown NIT on Monday, she wasn’t going to sit around and just hope the Milwaukee Sting Gold would stumble into solutions.
After the Sting dropped the first set to MadFrog 13 National by a resounding score of 25-8, Perkins ordered a full reset, with positions, approaches and attitudes all given a fresh look. It took a while, as the Sting also trailed for portions of set two, but eventually they doused some of MadFrog’s hitting prowess and fought their way to an 8-25, 25-22, 15-13 victory at the Kansas City Convention Center.
After feeling whatever the opposite of momentum is in set one, the Sting slowly unleashed its own solid group of hitters and applied heavy pressure as Natalie Surges and Ali Beers put down numerous shots. It was a bit of a shock, really, after that rough beginning.
“That wasn’t our best set of the weekend. We looked to each other – we put blame on each other in the first set, but we had to internalize that and work hard as a team,” head coach Perkins said. “We switched our blocking schemes, moved blockers over, changed the defense and we were able to pickup more balls. We have a lot of (offensive) variety, and we also have three setters, which is a drastically different style.
“That helped offset some of what they did on the other side of the court. Our setters made the difference, they gave our hitters the opportunity to see some higher balls, give us more time to put it down.”
Down 13-9 in set two, the Sting used a cluster of kills from Beers to get stable and then let the lineup roll with great swings from Holly Hawthorne, Ireland Zyzo and Surges, the latter who had the final kill of the set.
“We always say it’s time to come together, don’t play as individuals but try to play as a team,” said Beers about responding to early adversity. “We tried to focus, settle down, see what we did wrong and try to change it. Finally, it started coming together. People were getting kills, and we just kept going with that.”
MadFrog had beaten the Sting on Sunday in two sets, another match where the Sting got off to a slow start. But by the third set Monday, it looked much different. An ace from libero Addison Bruns gave Milwaukee a 9-6 lead; MadFrog came back to tie it at 10-all on a block from Simone Heard and then took a 12-10 lead.
Kills from Surges and Zyzo, an ace from Cassidy Bruns and a net violation pushed the Sting ahead, 14-12 – an errant swing by MadFrog notched the final point.
“We needed some energy, and after our bench was able to provide that, it carried onto the court, and then it seemed carry through to everyone,” Hawthorne said. “We were able to make it happen. We learned (from Sunday) where they hit and where we needed to be on the court, understood their plays. After we got some kills, we knew what we had and could get something done.”