By Dan Stillwell
Register-Herald Sports Writer
“Volleyball is a game of momentum.”
You’ve heard the clichés before.
And sometimes, they’re even true, such as Thursday night in Coal City, when Independence turned back Princeton 2-1.
The Patriots lost a tough, opening game, 29-27, and were in another nail-biter in the second. Princeton hitters McKenzi Barnett and Kaleigh Barker were dominating the front line, while Independence all-stater Anne Bass was, more often than not, finding the net with her hits.
Setter Brooke Foley, another returning all-stater, and the back line of Stephanie Fletcher, Jessica Adkins and Kaitlyn Spencer, were keeping the Patriots in the game.
But they needed some offense. They needed Bass on top of her game.
“If I’m up and Annie’s down, she relies on me to get her up,” Foley said. “When we’re both up, our team is up. They thrive off our enthusiasm.”
Slowly, Bass came to life with some good hits. Jenni Perkins followed suit, hitting and serving well. Foley even had a kill.
Independence (8-4) took the lead and then won the game 25-21. A double-block by Jessica Adkins and Brittany Allen on the next-to-last play serving as an exclamation point.
Now clicking on all cylinders, the Patriots unleashed their best serves of the evening in the third game. Adkins had four in a row, including an ace, for a 6-3 lead. Bass ended a 6-0 Princeton run with a killer spike, and then served six points in a row — two on back-to-back aces — to make it 14-10.
“I was challenged,” Bass said. “I realized I had to pick it up.”
Princeton scored, but an Allen kill returned the ball to the Patriots. Foley served the next eight points, including four aces, to put her team comfortably ahead 23-11.
A Skylar Kipps block made it match point, and Independence withstood a late rally to win 25-16.
“We’ve played up and down this year,” coach Patty Bryant said. “It was a different team in the second quarter. It’s been like that all year.”
Having a small front line hasn’t helped. Bass is just 5-7, and the others aren’t much taller.
“I had been really hard on my back row, but when I looked at the stats of some of the games, I saw we weren’t getting any blocks. We’re short,” Bryant said. “Last year, (the graduated) Kelsey Hart was a blocking maniac. We don’t have that this year, so my back row has to step up.”
The Patriots will play in the Charleston Showcase at 9 a.m. Monday.
While the Patriots’ Achilles Heel is their height, for Princeton it is youth. Three starters are sophomores.
“We’re pretty young,” said coach Lisa Whitt, a former Tigers standout herself in volleyball and basketball. “We played well at the beginning, and then we let up. We can’t do that.
“Typically, we actually like to lose the first game, and win the second (and third). So tonight, I don’t know.”
Princeton fell to 8-4 with the loss.
“We’re having a pretty good year, so I don’t have too many complaints,” Whitt said. “They’re playing hard and moving better. Tonight, for some reason, we stopped moving in the third game. If you don’t move, you don’t score.”
— E-mail: dstillwell