By Kyle Koso
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – When a lot of hard work is undone by just a couple quirky mistakes, it’s enough to spin a volleyball team into a funk and out of a match.
The Central Iowa Select 15 Elite had no reason to predict their troubles late in Game 2 on Sunday against Skyline Royal – CIS had pocketed four matches already at the Triple Crown NIT and had won Game 1, but Skyline took advantage when CIS let a ball drop, enough of an edge for the Texas program to claim the game.
CIS worked it out in the huddle, and went to work in Game 3, pushing through to a 26-24, 22-25, 15-10 victory to move to the Elite Division quarterfinals. They’ll face OTVA or Dynasty Black on Monday at the KC Convention Center.
“That was very unlike us to have that happen. We talked about, if you’re in a position to play the ball, do it, instead of assuming someone else will. You have to communicate,” said CIS coach Tina Carter. “I thought our kids did a great job of identifying their hitters. Skyline is very deep, and we didn’t know who’d they start or play. We talked about defending lefties; our team was scrappier, and we had better ball control and defense. That’s saying a lot against (Skyline).”
“I felt we realized it’s important to play like a team and not be selfish,” said Hayden Kubik, who rang up multiple noisy kill shots and had a key block late in Game 3 to give CIS a 14-10 lead. “Being a team, work hard together and don’t just focus on yourself.”
In Game 1, CIS spread the work around, with Dasha Svitashev coming through with three big kills in the late stages; Kubik and Chloe Largent combined on a block to finish off game point. CIS also had positive moments in Game 2, using a 8-1 run to take an 11-10 lead and at least put itself in a good spot before those aforementioned mistakes allowed Skyline to push ahead.
Defensively, Cali Coppola always seemed to be in the right position, and she also pounded home a few shots, helping the offense diversify when Kubik didn’t get the ball.
“I felt like we came together, everyone would cheer for each other, and if we made a mistake, we’d shake it off and just go to the next ball,” Coppola said. “The nerves just get me more hyped up and excited to play with my friends, my teammates, who are like my family.”
Skyline would have moments when they focused on muzzling Kubik, and at times it was very effective – little stretches gave the appearance CIS was struggling to identify a Plan B. Kubik showed an ability to adapt with a few clever tip shots, and her hammering swing was impossible to stop over the long haul.
“The ‘Hammer’ is very human, a young 14-year-old. We are working on ways for her to be more efficient,” Carter said. “Have a plan based on where the ball is at, and it’s a lot of information. But you can see moments where she is figuring it out. When you are repeating to a hitter, it can be hard for them to get into position and know what to do.”
“You can’t shut down; you have to focus on the team,” Kubik said. “And when I had the feeling I needed to tip, I just followed my instincts.”