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Barbs edge Knights in NI Big 12 volleyball opener

DeKALB – Second-year DeKalb volleyball coach Ben Fisher expects the Northern Illinois Big 12 East to be a tough, competitive league.

First-year Kaneland coach Kerri McCastland echoed the statement.

If Monday’s 26-28, 25-16, 25-22 DeKalb win over the Knights in both teams’ conference opener is any indication, the fourth year of league play will be one wild ride.

DeKalb is off to a good start as it looks for a league crown. The Barbs (6-2, 1-0 Northern Illinois Big 12) can get off to an even better start with a win over Sycamore tonight.

“It was pretty big,” DeKalb sophomore Heather Bemis said of Monday’s effort. “It’s Kaneland. Our goal is to get conference. We’re just taking it one game at a time and trying to be the best we can be because we have a lot of talent this year.”

Bemis and the Barbs looked like they were going to take care of the Knights in Game 1 and look for a sweep, but Kaneland (6-8, 0-1 NI Big 12 East) roared back to end the game on a 7-2 run. Bemis said errors like net calls were a big reason for losing the lead. She said her team eliminated that stuff the rest of the match.

“We just had to focus on keeping up our energy and just staying as a team and playing together,” Bemis said. “Once we got that, we could bring it back. So we just focused on that.”

Bemis’ sister, Courtney, led DeKalb with 10 kills. Courtney Wagner had six kills and four blocks, while Madison Lord added 28 assists. Nicole Schladt and Abby Hickey each had eight digs.

While DeKalb’s long-term goal is to win conference, Fisher said the main thing he wants to see is his team get better and keep improving every game.

“Winning conference would be phenomenal,” Fisher said. “But our goal is to always be playing well at the end of October.”

McCastland’s feels her young Kaneland team can compete for the conference crown with the likes of DeKalb, which got all they could handle from the Knights on Monday.

Ellie Dunn had nine kills and 15 digs for Kaneland. Bridget Ransford finished with five kills and eight digs, while Jenny Lubic added eight assists and two digs.

“We have one senior, and we have two freshmen, and we have four sophomores. And I think that the fact that we progressed and ball-handled as well as we did, and the defense was consistent as it was, serves were great. We did what we needed to do,” McCastland said. “They just have to come to the end and believe that they’re that team, and they haven’t had enough time to be together yet. It’s less than 30 days, so give it a minute.”

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