By Adam Burns
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Perfection is a rare commodity at the Triple Crown NIT, and that’s exactly why Top Select 17s is perfectly OK with its straight-set opening victory over Skyline Royal on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s good to win in two, you know?” Top Select coach Blake Rawlins said after his squad earned the 25-19, 25-22 victory in Power Pool A play inside the Kansas City Convention Center.
Indeed it is, said Top Select outside hitter Rebekah Rath.
“It was really important to set the tone for the tournament and it’s our first real big tournament as a team, so it was really good to get started on a good note,” said Rath, a Maryland commit who finished with a match-high seven kills.
After Top Select and Skyline managed eight ties in the first set, Top Select, an Orlando-based team, used a game-changing 7-1 run to take a 19-13 lead. Top Select rode that momentum for an eventual six-point win in the opener.
Skyline, meanwhile, was the aggressor in the second set. The Dallas-based squad scored the first three points of the set and led by as much as much as five before Top Select came roaring back.
Top Select knotted the score at 19-all and twice more before a kill from Sydney Conley and two kills from Rath sealed the deal.
“It says that we never give up,” Rath said of her team fighting back from down five points. “When we get down we try really hard to stay steady and not get too down or hard on ourselves.”
“I liked our resolve there in the second set,” he said. “We were down five points and we worked our way back into it and ended up winning by three. We found a way to win and we just kept fighting.”
Skyline will chalk up this one as experience.
“This is our first year here and we came here for that specific reason, because it’s great competition from Day 1,” Skyline coach Ashley Williams said. “We need that to get ready for qualifying season.
“That wasn’t our best hitting match and I know we can do it better. Playing against a team like that we have to be more selective.”
Reagan Rutherford led Skyline in kills (4), assists (10) and digs (8).
“She did a good job setting up for the block so our defense knew where to go," Williams said. "We could’ve set her more often if we were more in system, but she did a good job with her approach and reading the attack.”
Top Select’s Audrey Douglas shared the title of kills leader with Rath, as she also had seven kills. Cierra Jenkins, a Brown University commit, dished out 24 assists, while Elli McKissock recorded nine digs.