by Matthew Antonic
KANSAS CITY, MO — If you were only focused on watching Team Indiana’s Elite 18 captain Anna Murphy, you might not be able to tell whether the team won or lost a point. No matter the result, she is focused on being a positive leader.
On Sunday in 18 Open bracket play at the Triple Crown NIT, her reassurances to her teammates paid dividends. Team Indiana fought off a strong challenge from the San Antonio Magic, winning in straight sets (25-21, 25-18).
"We lost this morning, which I was kind of worried about how today would go, because that’s pretty deflating,” Murphy said. "I’m really happy with how we came back and won the next two games so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow.”
Whatever deflation Murphy was feeling was gone as soon as the next match started. It’s the mentality Team Indiana always plays with: don't linger on the disappointments of a match, and move on to the next point.
"We talk a lot in practice about having a short-term memory,” Team Indiana coach Michelle Coleman said. "There is not time in this game to let one turn into two, turn into three, so the quicker you can hit the reset button, the faster you’re going to have success and be able to turn the page.”
There were opportunities for a team with less mental fortitude to grow frustrated during the match at the Kansas City Convention Center. There was a dispute over a call, and the Magic continued to make mini-run after mini-run whenever it seemed that Team Indiana was in control.
It wasn’t easy, but at the TC NIT, it’s never going to be easy. Team Indiana remained fundamentally sound on defense, and communicated well to remain organized as a team.
"Our ball control is pretty solid,” Coleman said. "If we can control first contact, usually good things happen for us. We’ve got a great group of kids that fight and try to earn every point they can.”
Team Indiana controlled a majority of both sets, but in each one, the Magic battled back to get on level terms, taking advantage of a handful of mistakes. However, Team Indiana remained disciplined, and it was most apparent at the end of each set.
Both teams were tied at 18 apiece in the first set. Team Indiana won by four. The teams were tied at 16 each in the second set. Team Indiana ran away with it, winning by seven points. Once the momentum was seized, there was no looking back.
The run to win the second set came after the Magic had gone on a run of their own, scoring four unanswered to tie the game at 16. Just when it seemed as if the club from the Lone Star State had seized the momentum, Team Indiana took it right back.
"I was really happy with how we came back,” Murphy said. "We just decided that no ball is hitting the ground on our side. We got two blocks, there great digs, and were really clean and efficient.”
Team Indiana also benefited from strong serving technique. The Magic were caught out of position multiple times, and Team Indiana changed up its serve placement, catching the Magic off guard.
"We try to mix things up as much as we can,” Coleman said. "One of our coaches is pretty aggressive from a zone standpoint. Today it worked really well. The short serves really put us in a good position, because it takes their offense out, so it makes things a little more predictable for us, so that we can really establish our defense and be ready to go."
Team Indiana lost its first match in the morning, but showed how adept it is at putting negativity behind it by rattling off wins in its next two matches.
"You don’t have to worry about the next point,” Rilee Jessee said. "You don’t have time to do that. I think a lot of our mistakes this morning were falling on that, and this time we came out and as a team we were really focused."