With its 3,699-student enrollment, Lockport is a larger school than what Morris will see in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East or in the 3A girls volleyball playoffs
Playing quality 4A competition can help prepare the Redskins for conference and postseason play. The problem is that playing an opponent like the Porters is likely to add a loss to the Redskins' record, as happened Thursday when Lockport defeated them 25-16, 25-18 in Morris.
On one hand, Thursday's loss could be viewed as progress for the Redskins, who lost 25-14, 25-15 at Lockport last season. Morris outside hitter Kendall Korte did not consider it a moral victory, however.
"We're a good team too, so that's a tough question for me to answer," Korte said when asked what might be learned from the loss. "I guess we learned we can't get down on ourselves and can't dig ourselves a hole. But we're a good team, just like they are. I still think we can beat them, if we play like we can play."
Game 1 remained close until a serving run by Lockport's Katie Dugan gave the Porters a 14-9 lead. Morris had its deficit grow to 23-13 without getting another service point. The Redskins closed within 23-16 when Katie Chatten served up a pair of points, with JoAnna Nowicki providing a kill and a block, but a Katie Tabisz sideout kill and a Rachel Weis ace ended it.
Morris stayed even as late as 4-4 in the second game until a Gabby Martinez sideout kill set up Kayla Pfeiffer to serve up four straight points. Behind single service points from Korte, Chatten and Nowicki, the Redskins chipped the lead down to 15-13, only to have the Porters score five more points in succession.
Reserve middle blocker Taylor Vandenberg gave Morris a spark upon entering the match with a pair of kills, the second of which closed the gap to 21-17. The Redskins never got closer, with an illegal substitution penalty denying them a late serve and Weis again serving up the final point thanks to a Morris hitting error.
"My team is very supportive, so there isn't a lot of pressure when you go in. You can make one mistake and be able to deal with it," Vandenberg said. 'I'm not sure if we were intimidated after they beat us so bad last year. We know we're a better team than last year, but I think we were still a little scared of them."
Korte and Nowicki tied for the team lead in kills with three. Collectively, the Redskins totaled just 14 kills.
"There were some moments of greatness and some of weakness. Obviously when you're looking at those bigger 4A programs — and we knew they were a good team — you have to come out and be more aggressive," Morris coach Litwiller said. "We weren't offensive enough. ... We gotta pass (for that to change)."
Chatten led the Redskins in digs with seven and in assists with 11.