Just like there are two types of peanut butter, in the mind of William Chrisman volleyball coach Dean Rausch there are two types of wins – smooth ones and matches that take a bit more to digest.
“Both taste good,” he said Tuesday following his team’s 23-25, 25-21, 25-21 win over visiting Raytown in Suburban Middle Seven play. “This one was definitely more crunchy.”
To improve to 11-11-1 overall and 4-6 in conference play, the Bears had to shake off an error-laden first set, hold off a last-ditch rally by Raytown (4-8-1) in the second and overcome deficits of 16-14 and 19-18 in the third.
“It was a hard-fought game, and we were trying to show a little heart,” Rausch said. “I thought Raytown played sharp tonight. They made a lot of good plays.
“At the beginning of the season we probably wouldn’t have come back from that. It shows the growth of our team.”
Outside of an early 4-2 edge, Chrisman never led the first set due in part to 15 hitting errors, including five serves.
The Bears trailed 7-5 early in the second before a tip kill by Chrissy HoChee started a 9-1 run that put them ahead for good. Three kills from Rachel Losch and an ace by jump-server Bree Huntsucker helped close out the set, though Raytown did score five straight when facing set point.
Rausch said the Bears’ biggest change after the first set came between the ears.
“I thought we were overthinking our roles,” he said. “I told them, ‘You do this every day in practice. You’ve just to got to rely on your instincts. Don’t worry about winning or losing, just play.’”
A tandem block by Losch and Jordyn Atagi had the Bears up 14-11 in the third, but Carrie Fisher’s kill of a Bear overpass was followed by four Chrisman hitting errors to make it 16-14. After the Bears rallied to tie 18, a miscommunication caused a set to fall out of bounds, giving Raytown the lead.
But Losch’s tip kill gave Chrisman the lead for good, and two serves by libero Liz Snow went unreturned. Rodriguez pounded back-to-back kills to finish the victory.
Losch and Rodriguez, whom Rausch said is trying to convert from a roundhouse swing to a more compact, chop attack, led the Bears with eight kills apiece. HoChee added seven kills, Losch four blocks and Snow 12 digs. Atagi dished out 24 assists and Makenzie Erikson 17.
Savanna Martin and Lauren Owens paced Raytown with six kills each, and Fisher added five.
“Rachel Losch, that was about as good as she’s hit in a long time, and another one was Chrisha (Riley-Anderson),” Rausch said. “When (Rodriguez) gets that tomahawk-like chop, you can tell the difference.”
“It’s definitely newer,” Rodriguez said. “I’m getting the hang of it. It’s a lot of repetitions in practice and before games."
Rodriguez said the Bears found more energy after the first set and took some of their coach’s advice to heart.
“Not thinking about wins or losses, that was something he kept reminding us,” she said. “We’re all working together. It’s something we’re getting better at.”
Chrisman's junior varsity was a 25-12, 15-25, 25-13 winner.