Tyler, Texas -- If Indian Hills coach Lyndsey Michel needed an indication of how good her team is roughly halfway through the season, she got a clear picture of what the Warriors are capable of doing on a national stage with the way they performed at the Tyler Junior College Invitational on Friday and Saturday. Playing opponents who are either currently nationally-ranked or have been rated previously this season, the 17th-ranked Warriors swept all four foes they met over two days.
IHCC started with 3-0 sweeps of Hutchinson (Kans.) and San Jacinto (Tex.) on Friday. They knocked off Blinn (Tex.) in four sets Saturday before outlasting Tyler, taking the fifth and deciding set against the host school, 15-12.
Coach Michel raved about sophomore Bailey Darnall's play against Hutchinson (the Warriors won 25-21, 25-19, 25-18). "Bailey was a force," Michel stated, "a serving force, a hitting force. Anywhere on the court she was able to finish and make plays. She has really become the sophomore leader we were hoping she would be."
Darnall had 14 kills, second to teammate Camila Nicoletti's 16. Darnall's hitting percentage was .462 and Talita Oliveira's was .700. Antonija Ivanovic led with 14 digs and Chen Shenglan and Yanjiao Zhao had 10 each. Zhao was credited with 41 assists.
Things were tighter against San Jacinto, the Warriors winning the first two sets, 27-25 and 28-26, before ending the match with a 25-17 third-set victory. "We faced a lot of adversity thoughout the match," the IHCC coach said. "But, as a team, we worked out the issues and really brought the extra energy we needed. Darnall was still hot. Yowza!"
The Warriors established a season-high with 81 digs, 25 of them by Nicoletti. Darnall had 14 digs, led the squad with 17 kills and added three service aces. Oliveira picked up five blocks and setter Zhao accumulated 42 assists.
Saturday began with IHCC losing the opening set to Blinn 25-23, before storming back to win the next three sets (25-15, 25-21, 25-20). The statistical leaders were Darnall and Nicoletti with 20 and 16 kills, respectively, Ivanovic with 19 digs and Oliveira with eight blocks. Zhao continued to do a good job running the offense as the sophomore piled up 50 assists. "It was a tough battle against a team with a solid outside attack," according to Michel, who added, " we got the finish we needed. Bailey and Camila led the way offensively to keep our winning streak alive."
The Warriors then made sure they brought their winning streak, currently at 12 matches in a row, back to Iowa with them with a five-set win against Tyler. IHCC took the first two sets (25-14 and 25-17) before Tyler regrouped for 25-19 and 25-23 wins to square the match at two sets apiece. The Warriors prevailed 15-12 in the deciding set.
"It was a high-intensity match filled with outstanding moments, and some of the worst ones too," was Michel's assessment. "We overcame the storm and put Tyler to rest late in the fifth set to beat them at home."
It was the second straight year that the Warriors beat Tyler on its home court. Darnall and Nicoletti put a stamp on strong tournament performances, each pounding 20 kills. Darnall and Ivanovic each had 15 digs. Two other Warriors also made significant contributions -- Marisa Pope with five service aces and Reagan Moeller with six blocks. Zhao increased her assist total in all four matches. Her total of 52 against Tyler left her with 185 for the tourney.
Indian Hills is 21-3 overall. They will try to avenge one of their losses when they travel to Jefferson (Mo.) College on Wednesday night.