SYCAMORE – The DeKalb volleyball team was rattled early in its 20-25, 29-27, 25-20 win over Sycamore.
The intense atmosphere of the rivalry match was something the inexperienced Barbs hadn’t seen this season, and coach Ben Fisher said Sycamore setter Ratasha Garbes’ strong play had them off their game and out of their system.
“We haven’t seen a setter like that, she’s the best setter we’ve gone up against by far,” Fisher said. “We didn’t execute how we wanted to execute. This was a very intense situation to try to play volleyball in, and to try to stay together in. … We have not been in an environment like this, not even close.”
Fisher, though, let his players work through the kinks themselves.
The first-year coach allowed the two experienced veterans on his roster, juniors Madison Lord and Courtney Bemis, do most of the talking in huddles.
“They need to learn how to come out of it on their own,” Fisher said. “They’re going to be better for it in the long run. … [Lord and Bemis] keep our team calm, telling them, ‘Hey, settle down, we’ve got this, be confident in what you’re doing.’ “
On Tuesday, the strategy worked.
The Barbs (16-3, 1-0 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) came out and led 14-8 in the second game, and withstood a Sycamore run to win before coming out with a five-point victory in the third game.
“We just thought we played really hesitant, and we didn’t go for it the first game,” said Bemis, who led DeKalb with 12 kills. “We were letting tips go and stuff that shouldn’t be dropping, so we decided to pick up our intensity.”
With their youngest group in the past three yers, the Barbs continued their dominance over the Spartans during that span, beating Sycamore (5-4, 0-1 NI Big 12 East) for the fifth straight time.
“We carried on the tradition,” said junior hitter Abby Hickey, who had eight kills. “After that first game, we came back and fought.”
Sycamore coach Debbie Klock, though, is confident her team can turn the rivalry back in its favor.
The Spartans have every player back from last season, and they came painfully close to pulling out the match in the second game.
“Second half of conference, we are not losing,” Klock said. “They are that driven.”
But the young Barbs showed Tuesday that they can win in tense situations in a big-time atmosphere. When the rivalry comes back to DeKalb, the Barbs know they’ll be even tougher to beat.
“They had a big fan section, but we didn’t let anything get to us,” Bemis said. “We knew that we could do it, and we just stayed mentally strong and did what we had to do.”