Jeff Neukom, Managing Editor
On Wednesday, Oct. 28, the Titans squared off against the Cardinals of North Central with a post-season berth on the line.
After a suspenseful third set that saw the Titans fall behind by eight points, the team summoned their forces and clawed back to win 25-20. Despite only having one senior on the roster, the Titans were obviously determined to secure the victory on their Senior Night.
“Right now, our girls are playing very well. They believe in each other, which is huge,” head coach Kim Nelson-Brown said.
The victory against North Central capped off a stellar month for the team. On Friday, Oct. 24 the Titans knocked off a nationally ranked Carthage squad in five sets.
For the second time in the month of October, sophomore Kyleigh Block earned CCIW “Offensive Player of the Week” honors. After totaling 15 kills and 18 digs in a loss against Millikin, she racked up 17 kills and 14 digs to lead the way in the win against Carthage.
For head coach Kim Nelson-Brown, it was her 398th victory. She will have an opportunity to win her 400th in the second round of the CCIW playoff tournament.
“It feels awesome, knowing what we can do. I’m ready to go,” senior Mary Rankin said after the game. “We’re going to stick with what we’ve been doing. It’s been working so far, so it should work from here on out.”
Rankin also had a small fan club in attendance. Fellow seniors donned t-shirts with supersized letters to spell out her name and showed off their specially printed face cutouts of Rankin. It made for a humorous sight to cap off a resounding Titan victory.
“I’ve only had her for the last two years, but it’s been great. I wish I had her for all four years,” Brown said of coaching Rankin.
After a 25-19 win in the first match, the Titans came out blazing in the second, powered by ferocious defense and unrelenting attacks.
Kyleigh Block shined early and consistently. One of her outstanding plays came in the second match, when she leapt high over the net, spied an opening in the Cardinals defense and dexterously tapped the ball to the floor. It stood out precisely because it was such a slow, deliberate hit versus the standard rocket.
The Titans started sluggishly in the third match, with the Cardinals scoring four straight points. Soon enough, though, it turned into a nail-biter. After successive quick strikes, the Cardinals opened up a gaping eight-point lead. The Titans recoiled in shock but steadily fought their way back. They evened the score at 18 and then scored two straight, taking their first lead.
The Cardinals called timeout, and the nervous energy was apparent in both huddles. The Titan players bounced around, light on their feet. Block was huge again in the match’s closing moments, smashing two hits over the net for the 23rd and 24th points of the match.
While their opponent is yet to be determined, the Titans secured a spot in the CCIW post-season tournament, and they will go to battle on Nov. 6, 2015.
“One of the things we’ve been preaching for the last month is stay hungry and stay humble, and I think the girls are doing a great job with that,” Brown said.
Before the Titans start the post-season, they host the Barker Classic IV this weekend, with games on Friday, Oct. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 31. On Friday, they will square off against DePauw, and Saturday will see them take on Hiram and Concordia.