GREENFIELD — Catastrophe nearly struck the Greenfield-Central volleyball team before its match against New Palestine Thursday.
G-C sophomore Caitey Sosnowski and freshman Rachel Irbe were engaged in a kill-dig drill in warm-ups when Irbe’s errant spike compelled Sosnowski to dive, thereby sending her crashing into her coach, Rita Rouse.
Rouse was fine and jokingly said to Sosnowski that she could atone for her misstep by recording five aces in the upcoming contest.
Sosnowski, who Rouse calls the team’s “Energizer Bunny,” did her coach two better with seven aces, as Greenfield-Central swept New Palestine 25-16, 25-11, 25-18 in front of a boisterous crowd in the G-C gymnasium.
After cruising through the first set, the Cougars found themselves down 6-2 to begin the second frame.
Then, Sosnowski rotated back to serve, and took the match over.
She served for 16 straight points, logging all of her aces in that period. Sosnowski’s infectious energy infused her teammates, as Irbe controlled play above the net (five kills in the set) along with junior Maddi Graham (team-high 11 kills on the night).
“I knew if I got in a good serve run, then we could do that,” said Sosnowski, who added two kills and six digs, “and it happened.”
Set 3 was a back-and-forth affair until G-C tallied six straight points to push its advantage from 13-11 to 19-11. That stretch was also typified by the blue-and-gold’s serving supremacy, evidenced by Shelby Davis notching three aces in a span of four points.
G-C finished with 18 aces off the hands of six different players.
“We talked about how much service can control the game. We’ve been averaging 10 or 12 aces, that makes a huge difference,” explained Rouse, who scored her first victory in four tries against New Palestine. “When we can do that, we’ve got people up front, we spread people around and move our hitters around. We don’t want to be predictable.”
The all-around game of Irbe (10 kills, four aces, five digs) and the crisp decision-making of sophomore Megan Bradley (22 assists) allowed for that strategy to work smoothly for the Cougars (6-3, 2-1 Hoosier Heritage Conference), an unmistakably cohesive unit.
“It’s just different team chemistry from what we had last year or my first year. We have preached team, team, team,” said Rouse whose squads posted records of 17-14 and 13-21 in her first two seasons in Greenfield. “Everyone has to understand the concept of being selfless and putting the team first.
“I don’t care how good you are, how amazing you are, you can’t play this game by yourself.”
For the Dragons (2-8, 0-2 HHC), it was another match characterized by flashes of brilliance mixed in with long stretches of inconsistency.
First-year NP coach Jerry Saffold admitted that his group is still getting to know one another.
“We’re trying to find what our entire niche is as a team. They’re trying to figure me out as a coach and I’m trying to figure out them as players,” said Saffold, whose team graduated five All-Hancock County players from a season ago. “I don’t think we’ve found our true lineup yet. I’m trying to find the exact right players and put them where I want them.”
Senior Katie Morris, one of three varsity holdovers from 2011, paced the Dragons with 10 kills.
Saffold said NP’s rough start has adjusted his outlook on the season.
“I’ve got to look to what’s best for the program in the long run, and if I have to play freshmen and lose a few games, maybe that’s the road we go down,” he offered. “I don’t know if that’s the path (yet).”
Next week, the Cougars travel to Knightstown (5-8) before a home showdown with New Castle (9-1), the defending sectional champs and the owners of 23 sectional titles.
Rouse believes her team — 3-1 at home in 2012 — is just scratching the surface of its ultimate potential.