Judging by the first game of Tuesday’s Northern Illinois Big 12 East volleyball matchup between DeKalb and hosting Morris, it was easy to see why the Barbs are currently undefeated in league play and in first place.
Getting a 12-point run from Abby Hickey, the visitors tore out to a 25-9 first-game win over the Redskins.
“Mentally, we just were not here,” Morris coach Jackie Litwiller said. “I’m not exactly sure what happened. I’d call a timeout and make substitutions, and nothing seemed to work.”
What happened was DeKalb got off the bus ready to go.
“Set one was one of the better sets we’ve played,” DeKalb coach Ben Fisher said. “We distributed the ball around a lot and we kept ourselves in the system with our ball control.”
However, Morris battled back to win the second game 26-24 and then hung tight in the third before succumbing to a 25-20 loss.
In the first game, DeKalb’s Courtney Bemis had four of her 12 kills, but that was not the extent of things.
“We knew that was going to happen,” Litwiller said. “But pretty much anything that could go wrong did.”
Both coaches said Morris did a much better job in the second and third sets.
“I think we got caught up in the emotion of the match,” Fisher said. “The negative emotion. That and I thought Morris played a lot better in the second and third sets. They passed the ball better and serve-received the ball a lot better and we let up on the end line a little bit and didn’t go after them as hard.”
That’s exactly what Litwiller saw.
“We were hitting the ball. Instead of them just hitting at us, we were hitting it,” she said. “Then it became a battle, which is what we needed it to be. At least we fought and didn’t give up. That’s all we can ask.”
Morris is now 13-8 overall and 2-3 in the conference. DeKalb is 11-2 overall, 5-0 in conference play.
The one telling statistic is the Barbs were able to hold Morris to just three service trips that yielded more than one point in the three sets combined.
And there is a reason for that.
“We’ve been working on our side-out game a lot lately,” he said. “Trying to side-out first ball and we’ve been working on our options on serve receive. Also, we’ve been training the setter [Madison Lord] to eye the block on the other side.”