DeKALB – DeKalb volleyball coach Ben Fisher’s team was racking up wins early in the season, but he didn’t see it coming together like he envisioned it would when he took over during the summer.
Barbs players would become visibly frustrated with each other on the court, and the togetherness of a team with almost no returning players wasn’t where he wanted it to be. Those problems boiled over when the Barbs lost their first conference match to Yorkville last week.
“At times, they were frustrated with each other, and frustrated with themselves, which to me equals selfishness,” Fisher said. “You can’t play volleyball like that. We had people that would single themselves out, and play frustrated. We definitely had that.”
So on Monday, the day before the Barbs beat Morris, 25-17, 25-20, Fisher had the Barbs do team-building activities and talked to them about picking each other up.
“We really weren’t playing well as a team, we would get angry at each other,” junior setter Madison Lord said. “We really talked about being a family and helping each other out, playing for each other, not just playing as individuals.”
For at least one match, the extra focus on team-building seemed to work.
The Barbs (19-4, 4-1 Northern Illinois Big 12 East) beat a contender in the NI Big 12 East, showing they’re still the team to beat for the conference crown. And those issues that plagued them early in the season went by the wayside.
“Today, we didn’t have any of [the frustration],” Fisher said. “I’m hoping that we’re heading in the right direction and where we want to get to.”
Abby Hickey had 12 kills Tuesday, seven in the first game, and Courtney Bemis had 10. The Redskins (15-7, 2-3 NI Big 12 East) battled the Barbs neck and neck in each game before DeKalb pulled away.
“I thought [Hickey] played really well tonight,” Fisher said. “I thought she made great decisions when she was hitting the ball, and I thought she had great control of the ball tonight in the front row.”
Against Yorkville, Fisher complained that his team came out flat. On Tuesday, the Barbs played anything but.
“We came together as a team,” Hickey said. “We had a lot of energy today, and we played really well.”
Even with their early season issues, the Barbs are still the NI Big 12 East leaders, and Lord said she’s seen big improvements from her team in each match.
But on Tuesday, the team seemed to take their biggest leap forward yet.
“It’s about having fun and trusting each other,” Lord said. “None of us had played together with all six of us. We’re kind of rolling with it.”