By Adam Burns
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kokoro 18s are back on the right track.
After a 1-2 opening day, the Minnesota-based team bounced back with a three-win Sunday in the club division of the Triple Crown Sports NIT inside the Kansas City Convention Center.
Kokoro, of St. Paul, capped the perfect Sunday with a straight-set victory (25-22, 25-20) over Evansville United. Kokoro also beat TStreet-Taylor (19-25, 25-23, 15-13) and Club V (25-16, 25-21).
“It’s exciting for us,” Kokoro coach Sam Sullivan said. “We didn’t have the day that we wanted on the first day.”
The turnaround and victory against Evansville United puts Kokoro into the club division championship round, which starts Monday.
“To turn things around today and earn a spot in the (club) championship bracket is exciting,” Sullivan said. “It gives us an opportunity for us to end the tournament on a high note.”
Kokoro outside hitter Abby Widiker indicated that her team overcame more than just a 1-2 start to the tournament.
“It’s been really nice especially with losing our outside who came down with the flu last night,” Widiker said. “For everyone to adjust into new roles, not be afraid and aggressive, was really good. We brought a lot of energy and we were really aggressive.”
Widiker, a Missouri Science & Technology commit, registered a game-high 10 kills.
“They definitely put me in a great position with some nice balls, giving me a lot of opportunities,” Widiker said of her teammates. “The line was open and they pushed it far nice.”
The first set between Kokoro and Evansville saw 11 ties and eight lead changes. Kokoro put together a 5-0 run to pull away from an 18-all deadlock, which led them to the three-point win.
Evansville kept the second set close until it trailed by six at 23-17. The Indiana-based squad then scored three straight before Widiker sealed the deal with a match-clinching kill.
Now, with a rough opening day in the rear-view mirror, Kokoro has its sights on championship Monday.
“It gave us a little bit of confidence going into the last day,” Sullivan said. “We have some good momentum now and we’re getting into a rhythm.”