Girls volleyball: Kaneland beats Morris to stay unbeaten

Mia Kane may be in her first varsity season as a sophomore - but she doesn't exactly play as if that's the case.

"She brings a lot of power in the hitting portion of it," Kaneland libero Sam Abruzzo said after the Knights' 25-22, 25-20 sweep of Morris on Tuesday to remain undefeated both overall and in conference.

"You can see, she's ripping the ball left and right. It really helps us out because we know we can count on her and we know we don't have to keep going to our power [hitters] all the time," Abruzzo continued.

Kane, who primarily plays on the right side, is simply seeing more confidence in her play from the first match of the season to its near conclusion.

"I can definitely see from the first game to now just everyone supporting me and building me up throughout the season," said Kane, who had five kills to help pace the Knights.

Part of what makes the Knights (11-0, 10-0 Interstate Eight Conference) so difficult to defend is their use of either a 5-1 or 6-2 rotation scheme on the court, which allows primary setter Meghan O'Sullivan some flexibility to also hit when needed. Kane can then cycle over to setter from her natural right side to facilitate offense from there.

"So, you can use all three of our hitters and all of our options," Abruzzo said. "Mia really brings a lot to the team and really helps us a lot."

Kaneland coach Cyndi Violett has noticed Kane's growth over the last year.

"Last year, she learned some leadership skills," Violett said. "Didn't bring her up her [freshman] year because I wanted her to be a leader at the freshman level...just knowing she was going to be the only sophomore on this team [later]. I wanted her to get that confidence and leadership."

"She's come in right away; the girls have just brought her in and tonight, she played really well. She played really well." Violett continued.

Playing alongside Abruzzo, who will be playing collegiately at Purdue University Northwest next fall, has helped along in Kane's development.

"I think when you make mistakes, just shake it off and focus on the next point," Kane said of Abruzzo. "She really focuses on that, so I definitely learned that from her."

Kaneland trailed 22-19 in the first set but willed themselves back with six straight points for the unlikely 25-22 victory. Jordan Weber had a block followed by Madison Buckley's kill. After a Morris attack error, Buckley returned for a kill, which was followed by a crafty ace from O'Sullivan. Weber's final huge block at the net sealed the victory.

"Kaneland was on fire today," Morris coach Scott Howell said. "Their back row play was phenomenal. Our girls were swinging [hard] and they were picking up everything we threw at them. You're going to struggle against teams like that."

"I think the turning point in the first set would probably be around the 15th point," Abruzzo said. "Where we really just tried to take off because around 15, it's really important; you've really got to go because you only have that much time left to win. So, I think that's where we really tried to turn on the gears and get going to be successful in the end."

Kaneland built a 16-10 lead in the second set and although Morris was able to claw back within three later at 23-20 and again, Kane had a kill followed by a Morris attack error to clinch the match.

Morris (12-2, 8-2) previously lost to Kaneland back on March 18 just two match into the season in two sets.

Morris was led by Kennedy Dransfeldt and Jaelyn Wiers, who each had five kills. Katherine Halcomb had three kills and an ace.

"...Defensively we didn't get enough touches; we got more touches this time than we did in the first game. We definitely played them a lot harder," Howell said. "...We're getting there. We're close. Excited for the progress of our team. We've grown a lot and I look forward to what we can do against Kaneland [in the future] It's a program that you want to strive to be at some point, so yeah, it was a great game."

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