August 15th, 2012
Rockets Defense, Speed Overcome Toppers
Assumption begins title defense with solid play in win over Toppers
The defending state champion Assumption Rockets stepped on the court for their first match of the season Wednesday evening against the visiting Presentation Academy Toppers. And the host team proved to be as strong as ever in a convincing 3-0 win (25-13, 25-10, 25-12) over a tough, but out-manned Presentation team.
The Rockets lost seven seniors from their 2011 team that was ranked as high as No. 3 in the nation. But this season, they returned a squad full of talent which was on full display against the Toppers.
There was no sluggish start to the season for the Rockets as they came out firing in the first set. Perfect defense and stellar ball control were the foundation for thunderous point-earning kills from the front line.
Though they lack size on the outside, Assumption’s court coverage helped junior setter Alexa Filley consistently put-up perfect sets for front line hitters in middle blockers senior Taylor Paulson and junior Lauren Tutwiler, and outside hitters junior Hannah Moore and sophomore Miranda Elpers.
Senior defensive specialist London Ackerman is the leader of that back line and she consistently came up with big digs and near-perfect passes to help make Filley’s job a lot easier.
“Not a bad start to the season, and other than a couple of serving lapses I thought the team did really well,” said Assumption coach Ron Kordes. “But I’ll tell you, Presentation played hard and they were all over that court getting after every ball. And I think as a coach, you can’t ask for anything more than that. It’s fun to watch them. We’re fortunate to have a few more weapons than them.”
The biggest weapon for Assumption is Paulson, their 6’3” middle blocker who runs the quick middle sets with great timing and footwork. And she also launched a few blasts on the slide play to the opposite side (weak side, or right side) of the net.
“A good part of our starting lineup is back,” said Kordes. “We’re solid in the middle with Taylor and Lauren and our ball control is really strong. We’re a little small on the outside, but they’re pretty smart out there. We just got to stay healthy and build our depth a bit.”
With the Rockets leading 15-10 in the second set, Elpers ripped 10 straight jump-serves that kept the Toppers off balance and led to 10 straight Assumption points to give the hosts a 2-0 lead. Her serves induced three errors and made the Toppers scramble to create a scoring chance.
“This is the toughest team we’ve seen play this year,” said Presentation coach Abbey Breit. “We haven’t seen anyone this fast or this tall or anybody that plays this quality of defense. They serve well and receive serve well. They’ve got a complete team. This was definitely a test for us. We encouraged the girls to maintain the same positivity and aggressiveness throughout the match and that’s something we’ll be focusing on throughout the season.”
A real bright spot for the Toppers beyond their scrappy, never-give-up style is junior defensive specialist McKenzie Eskridge. Eskridge and her cat-quick reflexes made it difficult for the Assumption hitters to get a ball on the ground.
Breit had some high praise for Eskridge’s efforts: “She’s phenomenal. She really has the attitude that nothing’s going to hit the ground when she’s on the floor. She’s probably our most competitive player and you see her go after everything.”
With the loss, Presentation now sits at 3-4 on the season, while Assumption is 1-0. The Rockets will host Indianapolis Cathedral Saturday evening.