If Thursday is any indication, there should be good things in store for the Truman volleyball team the rest of the season.
Following a break in the schedule where they had a six-day layoff, the Patriots looked in prime form during a 25-12, 25-10 Suburban Big Six win over visiting Raytown.
“Usually, if teams have too much of a break, it’s kind of hard to get back in a groove,” senior Kasia Penyock said. “But we kept working hard in practice and that really helped us. Tonight we came out ready and we played well. We came out scrappy and so we were really able to keep the defense going, put a lot of balls away and get lots of points.”
Truman (11-7-2) received its usual solid hitting from Tapanga Johnson, who knocked down 10 shots, but three other Patriots had at least three kills, with Penyock recording six.
“There’s times where our hitting can be up and down a little bit, but when we’re on we’re pretty formidable as far as hitting goes,” Patriots coach David Gardner said. “Kasia is consistent. She’s more of a control-type hitter because she’s not tall, but she places the ball well.”
Truman setter Allissa Kridner noted the Patriots offense made strides Thursday.
“I feel like it’s running better than it was (before the break),” she said. “We did well with our opportunities.”
Added Penyock: “We’ve definitely improved as the season has progressed.”
After trading points early in the first set, Truman gradually pulled away to a 17-12 lead spurred by two aces from Natalya Nalivaiko. It finished the game on an 8-0 run, with two kills from Johnson and an ace by Alyssa Jensen accounting for the final three points.
Penyock had four of her kills in the second set, and the Patriots ended any thoughts of a Raytown comeback when TayJa Hill served eight straight points to push their lead to 19-6.
Like the first set, Johnson ended it with a thunderous kill.
“We played consistent and played well throughout the match,” Gardner said. “We have a busy week next week with three matches and a tournament, so we need to be playing well heading into that.”
Something the Patriots have going well for them is a strong senior core.
Five of their starters are seniors and two more play prominent roles off the bench.
“We’re all really close friends so we always love playing together,” Penyock said. “Most of us have played together since freshman year, and Allissa came in last year and became friends with everyone really quickly. That’s part of the reason we’re able to come together as a team and play so well.”
Added Kridner: “Since we’re so close, it makes it really fun. It’s all just clicked.”
Gardner noted the seniors make his job easier.
“They have team chemistry, like each other and want to see each other do well,” he said. “That makes for a good environment.”
Nalivaiko and Marlee Guenther both finished with three kills for Truman, which hopes Thursday can springboard it into the rest of the year.
“It sets the tone,” Gardner said. “We’d like to finish strong and finish the season as best we can.”