By Kyle Koso
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – With a deep roster of springy, strong and athletic volleyball players, the Rockwood Thunder 15 Elite is a lot to handle when unleashing its full powers.
That doesn’t mean the production is easy to perform, and in fact the Thunder were quite off-script in their match Saturday against Asics KIVA Red at the Triple Crown NIT. Already down a game, the Thunder whiffed on a simple pass, then got their wires crossed on a play where the ball fell unaccompanied to the floor, making it 11-all and forcing coach Chris Reid to call a timeout.
Emotions seemed a bit agitated, but the Thunder worked it out and won their first Power Pool match at the event, 20-25, 25-19, 15-12 – even the end was a strain, as they had a 14-7 lead in Game 3 that nearly went the other way.
“It’s about trusting the work you’ve put in the gym. There’s stuff that happens on the floor, and if you bring that into what you’re trying to do, it’s just a big distraction,” Reid said. “We’ve done so many reps on what we are trying to run … trust our stuff, the percentages are going to work out, and we have to let the craziness go.
“Now, communication is something we can control. Ambiguity is not going to work for us, so we have to do our jobs, and see what happens.”
The match was dogged by service errors on both sides, and KIVA had success spreading the opportunities around as Oliva Fish and Tess Schrenger were notably strong in finishing off kills. But there were flashes when Rockwood began to announce its intentions, as Vanessa Polk, Maddie Sell and Madison Scheer used their length and savvy to take over at net on defense, especially.
Polk used a wisely placed tip to make it 24-19 in Game 2, and the Thunder won the next point off an error. In Game 3, Rockwood never trailed, although KIVA made that late push.
“I think it was just jitters; we are all super pumped to be here. That was our first match, and we had to settle ourselves after that first game,” Polk said. “It was stressful for all of us, but we knew in the end we would pull and play our game. We’d trust each other to do their jobs.”
“We all stayed positive, and we had confidence in each other. We were able to come back from those communication problems,” Scheer said. “We were nervous, but so excited.”
In an event designed to bring the best programs together and compete against each other from the very start of the schedule, Rockwood has the look of a team that can stand out in the vast Kansas City Convention Center.
“They’re an exceptionally nice and kind group to each other. It builds the trust, and we all know we are pulling the same direction, and our sisters have our backs,” Reid added. “Whatever is happening, let it go … we come back to our base, then push. That’s what makes us special. Hey, pounding the ball inside the 3-meter line, I love that, too. What’s special is when we win the ugliest of ugly plays, because we’ve repeated that rep a hundred times before.”