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Mooseheart sophomore Madison Hart passes the ball during the Ramblers' season-opening match with Hinckley-Big Rock. Hart had 2 aces and 5 digs in the match.
Mooseheart senior Erin Stryker rises to deliver the ball over the net in the Ramblers season-opening match with Hinckley-Big Rock. Stryker had 1 ace, 1 dig and 2 kills in the match.
MOOSEHEART, August 23, 2012– Season-opening matches can sometimes be about “tone” as much as they are about results, and that was exactly the way Mooseheart's coaches and players felt after Thursday's match with area power Hinckley-Big Rock.
The Ramblers lost 25-21, 25-18, but behind those totals was a Mooseheart team that opened the match strongly, did not give up despite losing and kept its heads held high in defeat. These may seem small things, but programs are built on traits such as those, whether teams win or lose – and that's one reason Mooseheart coach Kristin Shuman was smiling after the match.
“I'm so happy, right now, I'm so pleased,” Shuman said. “The first game of the season is always tough to get out. They have jitters. They're nervous. All of a sudden, they're not sure were to go on the court. But I'm so proud of them right now.”
Mooseheart jumped to a 13-4 lead in the first game before the visiting Royals started their comeback. Hinckley-Big Rock eventually forged an 18-18 tie. The teams were tied again at 20-20 before the Royasls surged to win.
“It's a huge booster for our team to know that they can do that,” Shuman said. “Even though we didn't win the first game, we were over on the bench and Erin (Stryker) said 'it's OK, we're playing great.' That's what I love to hear from them.”
The second game was more straight forward. Hinckley-Big Rock jumped to a 9-2 lead and led 19-10 before Mooseheart rallied, closing at one point to 20-16.
“We knew coming in that Hinckley's historically always been really, really tough,” Shuman said. “We knew we'd have to fight, and for them to put up that much of a fight was amazing.”
The match was Mooseheart's first of the season, and featured a much-changed lineup from 2011. Only two players – Stryker and Madison Hart – played significant on-court minutes a year ago, and those two were key on Thursday. Stryker, a senior, had 1 ace, 1 dig and 2 kills.
“I told her and Madison that we only had two returning varsity players and I told them both that they had to be leaders out there,” Shuman said. “(Stryker) really was that for us tonight. She's so good at court awareness. She knows where everyone's supposed to be.”
Hart, a sophomore, brought a calming presence to the Ramblers' floor play. Hart finished the match with 2 aces and 5 digs.
“She's very much in-control,” Shuman said. “She doesn't et worked up. If one pass is off, she gets right back out and gets the next pass right. She's a very smart volleyball player and she's only a sophomore.”
The Ramblers received a massive energy boost from freshman Shannon Johnson, the smallest player on the team.
“I knew coming up last year from middle school that there was a lot of talent,” Shuman said. “There is a lot of talent in the freshman class and I knew (Johnson) had a lot of talent. Being so short, you don't have a lot of options. It's between setter and libero and I knew she had some good hands.”
A year ago, Mooseheart did not win any matches outside in-season tournaments until the IHSA playoffs began. Shuman said some victories this season are one goal, but hardly the only standard she has set for her team.
“It would be exciting to get some wins, but if they play like they play tonight, I really don't care,” Shuman said. “Obviously the coaching side of me says 'I want some wins!' But there's also that side that says that I saw what my girls did tonight. They played like a team and they lost as a team and they stayed together.”