SYRACUSE – After winning the first two games of their season opener at Wawasee, the Tippecanoe Valley volleyball team then had to fight the heat and a rejuvenated Lady Warriors' squad in a five-game win Tuesday night.
While an air conditioning unit is being installed at Wawasee High School's main gym, the Lady Warriors' volleyball matches have been moved to the smaller auxilary gym, where fans are right on top of the action and the temperature rises quickly.
Practicing in the stuffy gym, Wawasee coach Jeff Phillips believes his team should have an edge.
“We talked about the heat,” he said. “These first three weeks, it's probably going to be hot in our gym, but we have to use that to our advantage. We practice in here every day. If we come out strong in the first game, you stay fresher and you can play better if you go into third and fourth games. If we go five games, we've got to realize that we should be better prepared for the heat than the visiting team.
Instead of coming out strong, Wawasee dropped the opening game 25-14 and fell behind 9-0 in the second, before fighting back to take a 19-17, but ultimately losing 25-21.
Fighting to stay alive, the Lady Warriors cruised 25-13 in Game 3 and forced a deciding fifth game by taking the fourth 25-23.
In the tiebreaker, however, Valley junior Madison Miller began the game with five-straight points, including three aces, setting the tone in a 15-7 victory.
Miller is one of the newcomers Valley coach Mallory Eaton will be counting on this year, and she performed well in the season opener, recording five kills and five aces.
“I've got a really young squad,” Eaton said. “Other than my three seniors (Tenaya Shull, Caylie Teel and Jaden Biddle), my entire team came up from the (junior varsity) and freshman team. I've got the young of the young.
“You wonder how they're going to handle the pressure,” she added. “I had (freshman Olivia) Trippiedi come in to serve for (junior Lexi) O'Connell on game point (in Game 4), and she rattled off two aces. That's hard to do, and I put them in those positions because they want to be great. It's just going to take time and being in these situations.”
For now, the face of the team is Teel, who played that way with 21 kills, 11 digs, four aces and 1.5 blocks.
“That's the hitter you have to watch if you're playing Valley,” Phillips said. “She's a good player. She's going to get her kills, but it's how does she have to get her kills? Do we make her work for them? Does she have to get them out of the back row or is she just punishing balls up the middle? If you take them out of system a little bit, she can't get feed as much, which happened in Games 3 and 4.”
After punishing the Wawasee defense with six hard-hit kills in the opening game, Teel's swings were cut down in later games, though she began implementing more tips.
“With having such a prolific senior, and we have a lot of younger kids, teams will eventually start stacking on her,” Eaton said. “That's harder. With a decent block, with as many swings as she takes, she gets tired. I want to be able to distribute the ball. It doesn't have to be a one-man show. She can handle it, but next year, she's going to be gone and I have these freshmen and sophomores that are going to need to step up. It's not hard to figure out the game plan, that she's our best hitter.”
O'Connell performed well from her middle-hitter position with nine kills and 1.5 blocks, while junior Maddy Henninger had 13 assists and Biddle supplied a team-high 16 digs.
Wawasee also features new leaders on its front line, as junior Addison Ayres led the way with 14 kills and sophomore Liz Hardy had four blocks. In the back row, senior Aly Anderson had 34 digs and senior Alli Ousley posted 27 assists.
“One good thing is that we've got depth, which is helpful,” Phillips said. “You play poorly in those first two games, then you have to figure something out. Clearly, we found a lineup that was a lot more effective in Games 3 and 4. Whether we stick with that lineup or not, it's always nice to know you can make an adjustment like that.”
With so many new players of her own, Eaton will also be playing with her lineup, but is pleased to have win No. 1 under her belt as the kinks are being worked out.
“At practice, you try to simulate this stuff, and it's hard to do,” she said. “It just comes down to, 'Are you competitive? This is a time when you prove to me that you want to win so bad, that losing's just not an option.' Even when we were down, we just didn't stop. I just don't believe in stopping, and neither do these girls.”
Both teams return to action against fellow Sectional 21 competitors Thursday, as Tippy Valley is at West Noble and Wawasee travels to Fairfield.

TIPPECANOE VALLEY DEF. WAWASEE 25-14, 25-21, 13-25, 23-25, 15-7
Aces – Madison Miller (TV) 5, Caylie Teel (TV) 4, Kayla Scott (TV) 3, Jaden Biddle (TV) 2, Olivia Trippiedi (TV) 2, Aly Anderson (W) 2, Becca Anderson (W) 2, Grace Ondrla (W) 2; Assists – Alli Ousley (W) 27, Maddy Henninger (TV) 13, Tenaya Shull (TV) 8; Blocks – Liz Hardy (W) 4, Paige Hlutke (W) 3, Seaquinn Bright (W) 2, B. Anderson (W) 2, Lexi O'Connell (TV) 1.5, Teel (TV) 1.5; Digs – A. Anderson (W) 34, Biddle (TV) 16, Ousley (W) 14, Addison Ayres (W) 12, Teel (TV) 11; Kills – Teel (TV) 21, Ayres (W) 14, O'Connell (TV) 9, Miller (TV) 5, Hlutke (W) 5, Liz Hardy (W) 4.
Records: Valley 1-0, Wawasee 0-1.
JV – Wawasee def. Valley 25-15, 25-11
Wawasee JV Stats: Aces – Taylor Mock (W) 8; Assists – Amy Beer (W) 6, Mock (W) 4; Digs – Tiffany Koble (W) 4, Adrienne Grill (W) 3; Kills – Skylar Janda (W) 4, Kayleigh Rhodes (W) 3