Kaneland coach Todd Weimer came up with a unique -- and fitting -- analogy to describe the problems his team faced on their Volley for a Cure night Tuesday with a chance to knock off Northern Illinois Big 12 East leader DeKalb.
"It's kind of like we are driving a Geo and DeKalb has a '69 Chevy and is just cruising down the highway," Weimer said. "We're stepping on 81 octane gasoline and DeKalb has nitrous fuel. That was very evident. We started out in a hole both games."
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The Knights couldn't recover, dropping a 25-21, 25-21 decision that puts Kaneland (15-10, 4-3) two games behind DeKalb (22-4, 6-1) in the conference race. The Knights have lost six straight.
In Game 1, DeKalb raced to a 16-8 lead and looked on its way to an easy win behind a pair of Division I players -- Emily Bemis (Arizona) and Jessica Schafer (East Tennessee State), plus another senior Baleigh Euhus still weighing college offers and underclassmen like Courtney Bemis being recruited by major colleges.
But the Knights stormed all the way back into a 19-19 tie when Ashley Prost completed a 5-point service run.
Kaneland was still within 21-20 when it was the turn in the rotation for its Division I player -- Wichita State recruit Katy Dudzinski -- to head to the back row and Weimer subs her out. The Barbs made their best runs often when Dudzinski was on the bench, and they did so again to close Game 1 with a quick 4-1 burst.
The Knights fell behind by even more in Game 2, this time 12-3. Unlike Game 1 the Knights were never able to pull even, coming as close as 23-21 on a tip kill by Prost.
A pair of Knights hitting errors -- Kaneland made 8 in Game 2 alone -- ended the match.
"Kaneland made really good adjustments against us," said DeKalb coach Stephanie Gooden, whose team has lost only to Morris in conference. "I feel like our hitters sometimes go for the smart shot than just going for gold when she (Bemis) could have. But he (Weimer) made some good blocking adjustments. We need to be more diverse in our offensive scheme and it forced us to do that."
Emily Bemus topped both teams with 8 kills to go with 12 digs and 5 blocks. The Knights were led by Dudzinski with 5 kills, and Lauren Banbury and Grace Fabrizius with 3.
Kaneland came into last week's match against Geneva at 15-4 and has dropped to 15-10 in less than week's time. The Knights will try to snap the skid Thursday against Sycamore.
"This is the strongest part of our season now," Weimer said. "I want the players to figure out they need to keep sticking together. Everyone has everyone's backs. All the teammates have each other's backs, all the coaches have each other's backs. I trust all 12 players. Just because you had a bad night tonight, I don't care, you are going back in the match. You need to play volleyball. We need to stick together. Just like family."
And Tuesday night certainly had a family feel to the evening that raised money in the fight against cancer. Kaneland's turn to host Volley for a Cure was more lively than most as the Knights brought in an Emcee and Dee Jay that kept Kaneland's gym jumping all the way through the varsity match, which didn't start until after 7:30 p.m.
"This is definitely a very fun event," Weimer said. "I can't tell you how many people helped out. A great group of community people. This is exactly what we envisioned."