DeKALB – Tied at 17 during the first game of a 2-0 win over Sycamore on Tuesday, the DeKalb volleyball team knew it wasn’t playing to its potential.
Part of that had to do with a few unexpected wrinkles from Sycamore’s service game and offense, coach Ben Fisher said, which threw DeKalb off early, but the Barbs also knew they needed to play with more emotion.
“They caught us completely off-guard with what they were doing in the first set,” Fischer said. “There was a lack of effort, a lack of intensity at the beginning, and I think a lot of it had to do with how they served the volleyball and what they did offensively.”
Then Courtney Wagner asked Madison Lord to set her. Then she asked again, and again.
Wagner, DeKalb’s vocal leader, had three kills as the re-energized Barbs went on an 8-1 run to close out a 25-18 first game before winning Game 2, 25-15.
“[Wagner is] the loudest one out there,” said senior setter Madison Lord, who had 20 assists. “She just keeps everybody in it. She calls for balls and she says, ‘Madison, set me, I’m going in on this one,’ and she says it every single time, so that’s really good to hear as a setter.”
Abby Hickey also had five kills and four blocks for DeKalb 7-2, 2-0 Northern Illinois Big 12 East), which is a much different team than the one that struggled through the conference season last year.
After last year’s group struggled with chemistry, the 2013 Barbs are a tighter-knit group with a team full of returners.
“We communicate more as a team and work together more. We’re not out there as individuals,” Wagner said. “I feel like we’re more powerful, we talk more on the court, we’re more connected because we’ve been playing together for a long time. There’s more chemistry, more than other teams.
The Spartans (4-5, 0-1 NI Big 12 East), on the other hand, lost most of their starters on last year’s conference championship team, and a group with only four seniors is learning what it takes to play a powerful team like DeKalb.
“We’re still young as far as experience is concerned … We’re going to be all right down the road, we’re just hitting some rough patches,” coach Eric Nore said. “We’ve run into a lot of big, physical teams, and they just out-handled us as far as physicality was concerned. They’re just too big, we’ve run into that three times already, and each time has been about the same result. We just need to find a way of handling things like that.”
In DeKalb, the Spartans played a team with expectations of making a deep postseason run.
With the confidence they built from last year’s run to a regional championship and the improvements they’ve made early in the season, that’s entirely possible.
“I think [the postseason run] started making these kids who were here last year start thinking, ‘Hey, we might be able to do something special last year,’” Fisher said. “With that said, we’ve got to be willing to put in the work, we need to strive for more. We can’t get satisfied.”