By Justin Hunter
CHURUBUSCO – Growing pains can be expected in a coach’s first season, but the Churubusco volleyball team didn’t seem to have any headaches defeating county rival Whitko 3-2 last week.
The game featured Churubusco’s new coach Caitlyn Starkey, who previously coached at Columbia City. The Lady Eagles have had the offseason and a handful of games to get used to the change.
“I don’t think it was too difficult for them to get used to my style of coaching,” said Churubusco head coach Caitlin Starkey. “They seemed to adapt well. One thing I wanted to change was their style of passing. They all bought in and have done a nice job.”
The players noticed the change soon as Starkey came in to their first practices.
“We just had to start from the beginning of our fundamentals, because she had new ideas,” said senior Cora Pence. “Many of us had to try different positions, so we had to adjust to that. I do think we did well for how new some aspects were.”
The Churubusco coaching position is a change from Starkey’s last job at Columbia City, since they play many different teams than what she has been used to.
“It’s different being here since we play a lot of different teams than I’m used to with Columbia City. I get on the bus for away games, and I have no clue where we’re going,” said Starkey. “What matters is that we show up to play. If we come out fired up and ready to play, we will win. If not, we won’t get the same result. It just comes down to what kind of attitude we have that day.”
Whitko got off to a good start against Churubusco, winning the first set 25-16. The Lady Eagles responded by going up 6-2 in the second set. Whitko was up to the challenge, as the Lady Wildcats stormed back to tie the game at 11. Churubusco made a run of its own and to lead 16-12. A timeout could not stop the Lady Eagles’ momentum, as they tied the game by winning the second set.
Churubusco went up 4-1 in the third set. Whitko went on a run to lead 12-5. Churubusco had a comeback and tied the game at 18 apiece. The Lady Eagles took the third match 25-22.
Churubusco once again led, starting the fourth set with a 9-3 lead. The Lady Wildcats stormed back to take the lead 21-20. It was a back-and-forth, see-saw game until Whitko was able to gain a two-point advantage win to force the fifth set.
Churubusco started the fifth set 2-0. Whitko was able to score a pair of points to tie the game 2-2, but were unable to take the lead at any point. Churubusco went on the win its second game of the season.
“I thought we started the season a little rough, but we’re starting to mesh and play better,” said Pence. “If we played how we did game one today, I think we would have lost today. I feel that we’re getting better with time.”
The Lady Eagles may be improving, but they did struggle on serves. Serves hit out of play cost them 15 points in the game.
“We need to make sure our serves are in play,” said Starkey. “Believe me, they’ll know it at practice because we’re going to be working a whole lot of serves. I was happy that the serves that were in play were good ones because in the other games, we were hitting easy serves.”
Cora Pence led the Lady Eagles with 29 assists. Melanie Geiger had 21 digs and Brooke Nondorf had 12 kills. Mallory Sphar and Melanie Geiger both led Churubusco with four aces.
The Lady Eagles were able to secure the win despite giving Whitko 15 points due to bad serves. Churubusco has been playing at a disadvantage, having an injury ridden roster. Star player Rachel Jacquay suffered a stress fracture in her right foot, but is expected to return at some point this season. Meranda Malott is in a boot and Bekah Huelsenbeck had surgery over the summer.
One of the biggest perks for Starkey is having her own office inside the Churubusco building, she teaches third grade there.
“It’s nice to have an office here so the girls can stop by in between classes or before and after school. It’s nice to be in the building and have a short walk to practice. The girls here are solid. They’re hard workers and just a great group,” said Starkey.
The Lady Eagles continued their winning ways by defeating Bluffton on the road 3-1 (24-26, 25-22, 25-18, 26-24) last week. The Lady Eagles proved once again that they can come back from behind and win games. They also showed they can hang on to win close sets.
Junior Brooke Nondorf led the team with eight kills, while freshmen Sphar and Przmelewski followed with five kills. Nondorf also led the team with 26 attacks. Sophomore Madison Gaff was right behind with 25 attacks. Przmelewski came up big with four total blocks. Gaff also recorded a pair of blocks. Geiger recorded 21 digs, and Sphar tallied 12. Pence once again dominated the court with 24 assists.