PLAINFIELD – With an almost entirely new starting lineup, Morris volleyball coach Jackie Litwiller did not quite know what to expect in the season opener Tuesday at Plainfield South.
Whatever fears Litwiller had about the match were alleviated quickly.
The Redskins never trailed as they defeated the Cougars 25-17, 25-11.
“It was great. It was even better than what I was hoping to see,” Litwiller said. “All across the front row, the girls really stepped up, which alleviated some of the pressure on the back row. They didn’t have to do as much work back there.”
The Redskins led from the time Austin Thompson served up two points to begin the first game until it ended. Game 2 was closer early in the set, with Morris leading 8-6 until a JoAnna Nowicki sideout kill began a 17-5 run. Emma Thomas, Thompson, Nowicki and Kirsten Galloway each notched multiple points in trips to the service line during the stretch.
Some Morris players were debuting in expanded roles. Outside hitter Kailyn Korte, the only sophomore on the team, got some late-season varsity playing time in 2012. On Tuesday, she started and led the Redskins with eight kills.
“I knew it would be different without my sister [Kendall] here. In some ways it would be better for me – well, not better without her – and some ways it would be worse,” Korte said.
“But the girls on the team are like my big sisters and that made it easier.”
Thompson was debuting at an almost new position. She is returning to setter for the first time in several years, and her 13 assists led the team, as did her eight digs.
Thomas and Thompson tied for the team lead in aces with two.
“I thought it went really well since I’m not really a setter, but I was pulled over there and was able to help my team out,” Thompson said. “I’ve usually played middle or right-side hitter, but I’ll do whatever I can for my team.”
Litwiller expects Thompson to do plenty of setting for the Redskins this season, but they “have some options” that may free her to play elsewhere at times.
Cara Cummings and Taya Torkelson are both listed at multiple positions, including setter, and they both set during Tuesday’s match.
“She is a player. She knows the game. She knows what she’s doing,” Litwiller said of Thompson. “She doesn’t give herself enough credit. She can handle it.”
Morris got four kills each from Nowicki and Abby Baker and four service points from Morgan Hussey.
The only area in which Litwiller found fault with her team’s performance was its serve receive.
Of the nine service points South totaled, five were aces.
“It’s been that way so far at practice, too,” Litwiller said. “We’ll keep working on it. We’re getting to almost everything; we just have to do a better job once we do.”