MAPLE PARK – After dropping the first game, the DeKalb girls volleyball team was able to secure a victory over the Kaneland Knights in three games, 20-25, 25-20, 25-17.
It was the Barbs’ role players that ultimately pushed them over the top. Barbs coach Jamie DiMaggio says that was by design.
“We’ve been working on keeping the ball away from Hannah [Ohelberg] and Jasmine [Kemp] in practice,” DiMaggio said. “That forces everyone to contribute and be active. I think you saw that tonight.”
The Barbs (4-4, 1-0) saw impact performances out of role players such as senior Jessa Henry, junior Lydia Sabanish and senior Emma Fellabaum. Fellabaum had 26 assists on the evening. Henry says that being able to contribute at a high level is the ultimate goal.
“The focus is to make sure that every touch I make is good for the team,” Henry said. “Contributing like this means the world to us. We just love being there for one another and doing what is best for the team.”
DeKalb came out sluggish in the first game, having to call multiple timeouts before ultimately dropping the game, 25-20. Sabanish says that sort of sluggishness can be as much mental as physical.
“Sometimes, we get into our own heads,” Sabanish said. “Usually, we can hold ourselves accountable and get out of it. Other times, coach points it out to us. Kaneland is a really good team and they brought a high energy level today. We had to match it.”
DiMaggio shared similar feelings to those of Sabanish.
“I think they come in and try to be calm, cool and collected,” DiMaggio said. “They do that rather than say, ‘I am going to be focused, disciplined and play for my teammates rather than play for myself.’After the first set I told them, ‘You’re being selfish. You’re playing for yourselves rather than playing for one another.’ That was the difference today. If we can play for each other rather than ourselves and leave it all on the floor, we are going to have a good rest of our season.”
The Knights (10-4, 2-1) came out firing in the first game, but struggled to keep up in games two and three. The Kaneland game plan was to play with good court vision and play mistake-free volleyball. Coach Cyndi Violett alluded that this game can ultimately come down to who wants it more.
“In the third game, I told them that the difference between them and us right now is that they are hustling after every ball,” Violett said. “We were letting way too much go and drop. I think it is a matter of mindset. We have some drills for this in practice.”
Knights junior Shelby Hannula was able to make some plays for Kaneland by keeping her eyes up on the floor and taking what the defense gave her. Hannula says that it was all about getting out of stressful rotations and getting the ball back.
“It’s big to get the ball back and serve,” Hannula said. “If we keep getting blocked, we have to find open space. You don’t have to pound the ball; you just have to find open space. We needed more energy from the start of the third game. We need to not be down on ourselves and push from the start.”
Knights senior Sheika Mushunduzi echoed the opinions of Hannula and her coach.
“We do this drill called 20/18,” Mushunduzi said. “The side who has 18 has to try and score 25 before the other side does. Finishing games is something we work on. We tried to push but we weren’t as scrappy as we could have been. Our communication wasn’t as good either. Those are things we can work on in practice. We all want to win very much and have been doing well this year. We have to keep that up.”
Both teams will be back at it on Thursday. DeKalb will be hosting Yorkville at 6 p.m. while Kaneland will travel to Sycamore for a 6 p.m. match.