By Matt Antonic
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Milwaukee Sting coach Dave Bayer acknowledged that his squad had started this season a bit slower than he would have liked. But after a scintillating Saturday afternoon victory against Club Excel, the Sting are off and running at the Triple Crown NIT.
Bayer’s club won in straight sets (25-14), (25-23), and controlled play for large stretches of the match. With the win, the Sting advance to the 16 Elite quarterfinals.
“We grew up a little bit today,” Bayer said. “We didn’t freak out. That’s kind of been our MO early in the season, and they handled themselves extremely well today. I’m pretty proud of them.”
The Milwaukee-based Sting won the first set in one of the day’s more lopsided scores, 25-14. The team’s attacking prowess simply overwhelmed Excel. “The energy was really good and that helped us a lot,” said Katie Winkler. “When we have a lot of energy we play really well. We played a lot more confident and cool today.”
Winkler thought that the team’s focus on mental preparation was helpful in the second set, which featured a much more determined and organized Excel side. “We’ve worked a lot on our mental side of the game. Like picking each other up and moving on, and it definitely showed here today,” he said.
The Excel rallied, but the Sting came out on top in the second set, 25-23.
“We keep getting better and better every time we get in the gym,” Bayer said. “This has been a great tournament, great event for us, always seeing the best competition every time we take the floor here.”
The Triple Crown NIT, featuring nearly 600 teams, has brought out the competitive spirit in the thousands of players, coaches and club administrators that have descended on Kansas City. Monday’s final rounds are a treat to be a part of, Bayer said, but was careful to note that the biggest things the Sting will take away from the weekend are improvement and confidence.
“We’re not even worried about the end result of these matches,” he said. "We’re just trying to get better every time we take the floor, whether it’s here at Triple Crown, or when we get back in the gym Tuesday for practice.
That isn’t to say that his club doesn’t have their eyes on the prize. The Sting will face Club Elevation on Monday.
“A win like this is going to really help us tomorrow going into the last eight teams,” Morgan Yenter said. “We know our main goal is the championship.”