Last Saturday, Oct. 20, Indian River volleyball hosted the Indian River Challenge tournament, which saw competition from the likes of neighboring rivals Sussex Central, Cape Henlopen and Dover, as well as New Castle team William Penn.
Although the Indians and Sussex Central shared the top record on Saturday of 3-1, the Knights had defeated Indian River at the end of the day, giving them the tournament crown. The Indians would have to settle for runners-up status.
The all-day tournament tested the girls’ endurance, as two of the teams played four games straight through, with little time for rest between. Vigor and energy was on the mind of all of the coaches throughout the day.
“Stamina is the biggest factor,” said Indian River coach Jess Dodd. “You have to be careful if you show up with a small roster. If you have a player hurt, injured or sick, you’re going to have a tougher day.”
His team had suffered a loss to Cape Henlopen and two to Sussex Central earlier this year, though they pulled out a win over Dover in mid-September.
“We just have to focus on going out there and playing our game. It doesn’t really matter who we’re playing. It comes down to getting the stats. We want to keep the pressure on,” he explained.
Tournaments oftentimes call for last-minute preparation.
“We’re missing one of our best players, but our girls have really stepped up,” said Sussex Central coach Mike Adams. “All of the girls have played together as a team really well, and I’m proud of them. It’s not easy when you have this many games in a row.”
Dodd was forced to adjust his lineup as Hannah Daisey’s sprained right ankle from the prior Tuesday’s win over Delmar kept her from playing.
Facing new teams is another concern that each coach had to deal with, most notably in this year’s tournament, William Penn. “I had to change some things up throughout the day, based on how the teams are playing,” said William Penn Head coach Lori Minka. “You can’t always know what to expect with new teams, but it’s been fun. It’s nice coming down here and playing against all of these teams.”
“William Penn was a new team for us this year,” said Sussex Central head coach Mike Adams. “I had seen them last year, and they’ve improved a lot since then. We hadn’t seen Dover this year, either. It’s a challenge when you face these new teams.”
Adams was able to utilize the loaded tournament schedule to work in some participation from everyone on the teams. “We were able to have 10, 11 and 12 girls involved in our rotation,” he said. “That’s a great feeling. You want everyone to feel that they are part of the team, and that’s a lot easier when they actually get to go on the court.”
Preparation for tournament games varies from traditional once- or twice-a-week games.
“Tournaments are much different than regular-season games,” said Greg McCusker, head volleyball coach of Dover High School. “It’s not always the best team, really, that wins. It’s the best team throughout the course of the day. You want to play at a certain level and stay at that level as best you can through the tournament. That’s the team that’s going to win.”
“Mistakes are crucial in these games,” McCusker said. “A couple wrong points can do you in. We’ve managed to keep a good attitude for the most part, so I’m happy there.”
“It’s the day, and it’s the girls who show up,” said Cape Henlopen coach Carrie Serman. Her team entered the tournament with the best record against participating teams. Though suffering a home loss to Sussex Central, they split their match-ups with the Knights, beating them on the road last month. Cape also entered the tournament with wins earlier this season over Indian River and Dover.
“Volleyball is a very temperamental sport depending where the girls are,” Serman continued. “We had an easy week last week, so it gave the girls a little more time for a breather, but it all comes down to how the girls are playing today.” Cape Henlopen was unable to get much going at the tournament, despite earlier season performances.
Following the tournament, Indian River turned around to face Polytech at home on Tuesday, Oct. 23. The nail-biter came as a disappointment for the Indians, as they gave up the nearly 2.5 hour match in the fifth and final game. Polytech capitalized with a win in the first game, while Indian River answered back, taking the second and third.
A controversial record of service gave Polytech the edge with a 25-23 win in the fourth game to tie the match 2-2. The final abbreviated game, finished the Indians off with a score of 15-8.
“We gave away more errors than Polytech earned,” said Dodd. “We were hitting and setting all over creation.”
The Indians will face Caravel Academy at home on Saturday, Oct. 27, at noon, to finish off the season.
“It’s been quite a year,” said Dodd. “The team has been up and down all season. We’ve had our games.”