AKRON — After her team recorded seven aces in an opening-game win over Marion Monday, Tippecanoe Valley volleyball coach Mallory Eaton saw a change in her girls.
Leading the match 1-0 after taking the first game 25-16, the host Lady Vikings (2-1) lost some focus and Marion (3-2) went on to win the next three games 25-23, 25-22, 25-23.
“No one had fire,” Eaton said of her team. “They weren’t excited. Even at the end, they looked like they didn’t even know they had lost. It was insane. I have no words to explain what happened.
“We were here physically, but not mentally,” she added. “They were not engaged.”
According to Eaton, the Lady Vikings struggled with their offense, assuming her team’s hitting statistics, “aren’t great.”
“They just kept looking at me like, ‘What do I do?,’” she said. “I can only say, ‘You’ve hit a zillion balls in your lifetimes. Just hit it in the court.’ And when they do one thing that works, they think it’s going to work all the time. Well, teams pick up on stuff – at least good teams do. They panicked. So instead of rising to the challenge, they let it overtake them.”
Compounding Valley’s hitting woes, Marion senior Dejah McCain took over after the opening game, finishing with 26 kills from her outside hitter position.
“She’s an athlete, but it also helps when you let her get a lot of kills and run a match,” Eaton said of McCain, who scored four-straight Marion points to open the third game. “And it’s funny because my middles usually do that. Tonight, they let someone take hold of the game and were so passive.”
First-year Marion coach Kelly Marchello said that McCain’s first love may be basketball, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a force on the volleyball court.
“She’s a pretty good volleyball player too,” Marchello said.
“We’d like to mix it up a little bit in the front row, but until someone shuts her down, we’ll just continue to feed her the ball,” she added.
For Valley, senior Caylie Teel had 11 kills and junior Lexi O’Connell contributed eight, while junior Madi Miller had a match-high eight aces, with Teel and senior Jaden Biddle also recording four each. Junior Maddy Henninger posted 12 assists and senior Tenaya Shull finished with nine.
Defensively, Biddle had 14 digs and Teel had 11.
Eaton hopes her squad can shake the mental funk they were in Monday when it begins Three Rivers Conference play Thursday at Wabash.
“It could go two ways,” she said. “I’ve seen them go, ‘OK, we got that loss,’ and they get more fired up from it and I’ve seen teams go down. I hope they don’t let this happen again.”

MARION DEF. TIPPECANOE VALLEY 16-25, 25-23, 25-22, 25-23
Aces – Madi Miller (TV) 8, Jaden Alexis Abbott (M) 4, Jaden Biddle (TV) 4, Caylie Teel (TV) 4; Assists – Hannah Lindsay (M) 22, Maddy Henninger (TV) 12, Emily Lindsay (M) 11, Tenaya Shull (TV) 9; Blocks – Lexie O’Connell (TV) 1.5; Digs – Dejah McCain (M) 20, H. Lindsay (M) 14, Biddle (TV) 14, Christa Edgell (M) 11, A. Lindsay (M) 11, Teel (TV) 11; Kills – McCain (M) 26, Teel (TV) 11, O’Connell (TV) 8, Abby Betten (TV) 6, Jessa Gearhart (M) 5.
Records: Marion 3-2, Valley 2-1.