IR volleyball ready to take the next step

DAGSBORO – It’s been a few years in the making, but Indian River’s volleyball squad is ready to take the next step: the DIAA tournament.
Perhaps even a state title.

Just three years ago, the team turned in a 3-12 campaign. With five games remaining on the 2017 regular season schedule, IR is sitting at 9-1 with high hopes for the remainder of the year.

“We’re breaking all kinds of barriers,” head coach Jim Barnes said of his team’s 9-1 start. “We just want to continue getting better. I would say we have arrived to being able to compete with upper level teams, but we need to continue getting better and gaining experience in order to play and win at a high level.”

In 2015, the Lady Indians jumped from three to six wins before putting up a winning record of 8-7 a season ago.

The girls from last year got a sampling of what winning tastes like, and now they’re getting a larger slice of the pie.

“I just think that it’s very awesome,” senior Carly Collins said of her team’s 2017 success. “Last year we were, what, 8-7? We’ve surpassed last season already. It’s really nice to kind of expect wins now.”

Three games ago, IR played in what could go down as the game of the year across the state of Delaware. In a 3-2 victory over the previously undefeated Delmarva Christian squad, IR pulled off an improbable comeback.

Down 2-0 through the first two sets of the match, IR recorded three straight set victories (25-12, 25-19, 15-9) to capture the thrilling come-from-behind victory.

“That was crazy,” Collins said of the match. “Our goals for this season were to win that game and to beat Cape, and we accomplished both of those goals.”

“We were all so excited. I think we really grew closer after those two wins (over Cape and Delmarva Chrisitan),” said senior McKenzie Johnson. “The team bonding grew a lot after those games.”

In IR’s latest win – a 3-0 triumph over Milford Thursday, Oct. 12 – coach Barnes experimented with his lineup in order to improve in certain areas on the court.

The experiment worked, as IR handled the Bucs in consecutive sets (25-10, 25-10, 25-13).

“There were things I was happy about – we did some experimental things today with our lineup to try to get better in certain areas. I’m happy when I see good transitions and good system plays, and I struggle when I see out of system plays,” coach Barnes said.

IR’s next match is on the road at Glasgow Monday, Oct. 16 at 5:15 p.m.

“We just have a great group of girls,” coach Barnes said. “If we can get them to play well and not just be satisfied with competing, but say ‘we need to continue getting better so we can keep winning’ then who knows what we can do.”

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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