By Adam Burns
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – They were one point away from earning their first set victory of the day. But then a key player fell to the ground in pain.
A knee injury forced Cleveland Volleyball Company middle hitter Sarah Karabatsos to the bench Sunday afternoon. The injury didn’t shake the CVC 14s. Instead, it ignited them.
Playing with passion, an energetic CVC rallied past Club V in straight-set fashion 25-22, 25-14 during open pool play of the Triple Crown NIT at the Kansas City Convention Center.
“We were all heartbroken at the beginning, so we wanted to do well for her,” libero Sara Snowbarger said. “Our whole team just came together. We just said ‘let’s go’ and show them what we can do and don’t give up.”
Fortunately for CVC, after the scare, Karabatsos was deemed OK and even cleared to play, according to CVC coach Ron Gasper.
“She has never been injured so she was freaked out,” Gasper said. “We tried to get her back in but the sub rule (came into play).”
Despite not having Karabatsos at its disposal the rest of the way, CVC quickly found a rhythm. With an extra pep in its step, too. After a competitive first set with Utah-based Club V, CVC logged the first five points of set No. 2 to gain momentum. CVC added a pair of 5-0 runs to extend its lead to 16-4 to take full control.
Snowbarger, who’s competing up as an 11-year-old, credited the team’s togetherness for the rally.
“I feel like in tough games and situations like that, it’s just so much easier to get through the game because our team supports each other,” she said.
Gasper agreed, adding with a laugh, “We never have any issues, but sometimes you want them to forget that they're friends a bit.”
This was just the beginning of CVC’s Sunday. The squad, now 2-2 on the tourney, continued pool play on Sunday prior to the reseeding of the division later this evening. They’ll conclude play in the NIT on Monday.
“They’re competing at a level which is new for them, which is nice,” Gasper said. “This was a really big win for us. We’re normally fighting tooth and nail to just find a rhythm, so I think (playing in) the afternoon is the secret.”
Not that Gasper’s exactly surprised by the result. It turns out some coaching on his end may have played a role.
“We’ve been working a lot on their mental game this year,” he said. “And I’m as happy as I can be after seeing how they reacted to the adversity. They stepped up, and it made me super happy.”