The volleyball teams from Whitewater and Evansville high schools came into Thursday knowing they were a work in progress.
The host Whippets are playing the early part of their season without two of their top players.
The Blue Devils have just three seniors but are working to build momentum while they are still young.
When the dust settled on a back-and-forth five-set Rock Valley Conference match, both groups felt like they had made progress toward their goals.
And it was the Whippets, coming off a five-set loss at Walworth Big Foot, that came out on top, winning 25-22, 21-25, 25-13, 21-25, 15-10.
“They found a way,” Whitewater coach Kathy Bullis said of her players. “We had a bunch of different players step up. We had three different players with a career high in kills tonight. They’re being asked to step up, with two major injuries that we have.
“This will only make us better down the road.”
Whitewater improved to 2-1 in the RVC. Evansville fell to 0-3.
Whitewater has already been without promising freshman outside hitter Kindyl Kilar, who injured her knee the first week of practice and is working her way back.
The Whippets lost junior outside hitter Emme Bullis—a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo commit and Kathy Bullis’ daughter—to an ankle sprain during the fourth set at Big Foot earlier this week.
After each team won a pair of close sets to open the match, junior Kacie Carollo seemed to give the Whippets all the momentum in the third. She had two kills, two aces and a block in the first seven points of the set, and Whitewater rolled.
Carollo had a career-high 12 kills to go along with five aces and 15 digs. Junior Cora Linos had 27 assists and five aces, and junior Kiyla Kopecky added a career-high nine kills.
“I’m excited that other girls are stepping up,” Kathy Bullis said. “We can set the middle, set the outside, our defensive players are starting to step up and fill in some holes and taking more balls.”
Evansville coach Mindy Molloy may have seen her team falter in the past after losing a lopsided third set, but this time the Blue Devils showed their grit. They jumped out to a 7-2 lead and won the fourth thanks in part to four of junior Josey Rinehart’s eight blocks in the match.
“Culturally, we’ve been a team that doesn’t believe that we can win,” Molloy said. “But tonight was a true, genuine effort of taking control and taking care of the ball on our side of the court. Just let the points fall where they’re going to fall, but handle each contact the best possible way we could.”
Rinehart also led Evansville with eight kills, while freshman Skye McDermott dished out 15 assists.
“Last Tuesday we talked as a team, and we have a ton of juniors, but we said, ‘Don’t wait to flip the switch in your senior year,’” said Molloy, who has just three seniors on her roster. “Give it 100 percent now, so that this team almost looks exactly the same next year, with momentum going forward.”
The decisive fifth set was a back-and-forth affair again.
Whitewater led 6-3 to force an early timeout, and the Blue Devils came out of that break with a 5-0 run to force a timeout the other way.
The Whippets were down 9-8 but scored seven of the final eight points to pull away.
“We’ve preached the whole time that you need to be able to play different positions—not just on a certain side or in the middle,” Bullis said. “We need you to be able to do it all to help us out. And so the versatility has really been wonderful with this group.”
WHITEWATER 3, EVANSVILLE 2
Evansville 22 25 13 25 10
Whitewater 25 21 25 21 15
Leaders: Aces—Evasnville had four with 2, Kacie Carollo and Cora Linos (W) 5 each. Kills—Josey Rinehart (E) 8, Carollo 12. Assists—Skye McDermott (E) 15, Linos 27. Digs—Taryn Boll (E) 9, Linos and Carollo 15 each. Blocks—Rinehart 8.