by Thomas Hoffman
Head coach Todd Kolkhorst could not have dreamt of a better way to kick off the 2020 Triple Crown Volleyball NIT. His 16u Elite Houston Skyline squad will walk into Sunday a perfect 3-0 behind wins over Arizona Storm Thunder, 1st Alliance Silver and an impressive 2-0 (25-21, 25-22) victory over Mizuno Long Beach Rockstar.
“I’m so proud of them,” said Kolkhorst. “We have a few injuries and some people are playing positions they’re not used to. It’s super cool to see them step up and produce at this awesome tournament with all these great teams.”
Skyline came ready to play in the opening set, racing out to an early lead and protecting it throughout.
“They’ve been working a lot in the gym,” Kolkhorst explained. “They came out and played at a very high level and with a lot of maturity.”
Leading the way for Skyline was outside hitter and defensive specialist Alexis Dacosta. Dacosta tallied three kills and an ace in the first set alone. Her stellar effort had only just begun.
“I was feeling really good in warmups,” Dacosta said. “I was really excited because our lineup is different and I was confident to show them what we got, even with the people we have injured.”
Despite a 4-0 run late in the set, Houston held strong with a 25-21 effort.
Long Beach wasn’t quite ready to let Skyline out of the woods just yet. Multiple scoring runs to open the second set and a seven-kill performance from Adonia Faumuina nearly forced a decisive third.
Enter Alexis Dacosta.
The Katy Texas native notched eight kills in the second stanza alone. Along with three kills each from Logan Lednicky and Bailey Hanner, the trio pulled Houston out of the depths and back into the lead.
“We might have let them get on a bit of a run but we didn’t let that get to our heads,” Dacosta said. “We came back and showed them who we are and that we’re Houston Skyline.”
“It comes from the confidence they have in playing with each other,” said Kolkhorst. “They can let three or four points go but they know if they just get one more ball, they can side out.
“They’re going to make errors physically but mentally they were at an eight or a nine today which was really cool to see.”
In total, Dacosta finished with 11 kills and an ace as Houston Skyline will earn one of the top seeds in Power Pool A.
“She’s just doing what she does,” Kolkhorst said. “She can side out from anywhere on the court. She can dig. She can pass. She serves aggressive. She’s our little lethal weapon. I’m not surprised because that’s the kind of player that she always is.”
While pleased with the torrid start, Kolkhorst and Skyline know that their work is far from over this weekend.
“Anybody can beat anybody,” said Kolkhorst. “If we lose tomorrow morning, all the wins today don’t matter. It was cool to come out 3-0 today but tomorrow we’re back to 0-0.”
Dacosta and the players know that success tomorrow is just a matter of being true to themselves.
“Of course, we play to win, but we also play to have fun,” explained Dacosta. “We went out there confident today and we need to do it again tomorrow.”