The volleyball match between Emerson and Park Ridge on Sept. 17 looked like it was headed for a third game.

Park Ridge had won the first game 25-19, but trailed game two 18-7 when Owls coach Trish Van Laere called a second timeout.

“I went into the huddle and told the girls we were not going to win this game,” said Van Laere. “I told them to use it as practice for the third game. I said don’t look at the scoreboard; this game is over.”

The Owls did not heed their coach’s advice, however, and instead reeled off seven straight points to creep within four, 18-14.

“They shut me up real quick,” said Van Laere.

Park Ridge lost a point on an errant serve. Then Kelsey Wimmershoff pounded one of her 12 kills in the match to bring the Owls back within four, 19-15.

After Wimmershoff’s blast, the Owls took seven of the next eight points to grab a 22-20 lead.

“Coming back is not something we are strong at,” said Van Laere. “It’s something we have been struggling with for years.”

Five points later Park Ridge closed out the game and the match.

“It’s frustrating,” said Emerson coach Kelly Streicher. “I see the talent these girls have and the skills they possess. Because of our mistakes they [Park Ridge] caught up. I know how well they can play so it must have frustrated them too.”

Sherry Altomare finished the match with 14 digs and Kayla Kopchak distributed 10 assists for the Owls. Junior Natalya Machado had 10 digs for the Cavos.

In the first game, Park Ridge led for the entire time. Emerson closed to within one point of the lead a few times but could never tie the game.

“I want to bring back the things I learned when I was at Emerson,” said Cavos alumna Streicher, who is in her first year of varsity coaching. “The things we did and knowing what is important will help me mold this team. Basic skills and communication are the most important things.”

Van Laere has been the coach of her group of girls for five years, since before they entered high school.

“I have coached these girls since eighth grade,” she said. “These six starters have always been the starters. They question me now and then but they trust me.”

Van Laere says that early in her coaching career she used to “scream, scream, scream” and put down the girls. Now she asks them to communicate with her after every game.

“I ask them to e-mail their thoughts,” Van Laere said. “What they think we did right, what they think they did wrong, and what they think we could have done better. It helps me focus on the bigger picture because I see it from 12 perspectives. I take the key elements and prepare a PowerPoint presentation to show them before practice.”

“It opens up team communication even further than it is,” said Wimmershoff. “If somebody has something on their mind, coach brings it to practice. We all help each other.”

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Photo Credit:KEVIN RILEY