by Matt Antonic
As flipping of the scripts go, the 13u Club MKE Sting will have quite the story to tell. Facing the KC Dynasty on Sunday, the Sting were fighting, but were being outplayed.
Having already dropped the first set and trailing 23-20 in the second, coach Kristin Perkins called timeout. The team needed something to change, and needed to do it quickly. The Sting decided to shift strategy, moving the focus on the Dynasty in an attempt to throw them off their game.
The result was stunning. The Sting mounted a comeback, unleashing a 6-1 run to win the second set, sending the match into a deciding third set. This time, it was no competition. The Sting scored the first five points of the set and never looked back, winning the set 15-6 and the match (19-25, 26-24, 15-6) at the Triple Crown NIT in Kansas City.
The shifts came directly out of the timeouts, with a renewed sense of energy and focus as soon as the players broke the huddle. It was the successful execution of strategy, Perkins said, that pushed the team over the hill.
“We focused on their side of the court and not our side of the court,” she said. “We made adjustments from our defensive side."
The Sting were successfully able to force the Dynasty into making mistakes, opening a window for a comeback win. It wasn’t enough to just play good defense, however. The team needed to executive its offensive opportunities, and did so to Perkins’ liking.
“Our serve-receive and our serving game totally transitioned that game to our side of the court offensively so we could have momentum,” she added.
The Sting were boosted by an incredibly raucous group of travelling fans, enhanced by the permeable energy coming from the bench. The match was played on the less crowded South end of the Kansas City Convention Center. The noise and energy from the crowd become much more noticeable than matches played in crowded settings, where the noise from court-to-court can morph into a loud buzz that lasts all day.
Sting player Holly Hawthorne said the boost contributed to the team turning things around. “I think we finally were able to pick up our energy and realize that every team is beatable,” she said. “We can fight and win even when we’re down.”
The chemistry and communication between Sting players was on full display. Players on the bench contributed to the energy with a variety of cheers and chants. Hawthorne said it’s the result of the team being together for years.
“Over time, I think we were able to bond and get to know each other more and trust each other more,” she said. “That way we can go out on the floor and know that we are going to be there for each other.”
The Sting will take their best swings again Monday in the 13u bracket, facing a local team, either MAVS or Dynasty at 9:30 a.m.
Perkins said she is excited for the opportunity. Before the team broke the huddle and departed, she reinforced the messages she gives at practice about putting in work. “What we talk about is that we don’t look for anyone else to go for a ball except ourselves. The balls around us we’re going to go and give 110 percent.”