A new sense of motivation or pride can do wonders for any team.
Those feelings can come from many things. Whether it be playing against a rival school, a team captain taking charge, or maybe even the presence of a new energetic head coach.
Last night at Jim Thorpe, it seemed like all three of those things came together for the Olympians' volleyball squad. The Lady Olympians came up with sort of a surprising victory and a good one for the program at that, handing Panther Valley its first loss of the season in five sets 24-26, 25-15, 20-25, 25-28, 15-12.
It was certainly a raucous atmosphere in Jim Thorpe as the Olympians volleyball match served as sort of a pep rally for the Thorpe vs. Panther Valley football game that will be played on Friday night. Panther Valley struck first, taking the first set 26-24. Jim Thorpe had a 14-8 lead, but the Panthers (4-1) stormed back tying the set up at 14 a piece with a Kelsey Van Horn smash. The two teams would then go back and forth until the 24th point when Van Horn came through once again with a diving dig and a game-winning kill to give the Panthers the first set.
Jim Thorpe (2-4) took the second set, 25-16. The story on the night for Panther Valley were errors. The Panthers committed 14 errors in their second set loss and 13 errors in their 25-18 fourth set loss. The Panthers were also playing from behind all night even in the matches they were able to win. They came back from a 14-8 deficit to in the first set and a 16-11 disadvantage in the third. A Jessica Wiese kill in the third tied things up at 17 all and PV pulled away from there to win 25-20.
But the Olympians would take the final two sets including a 15-12 fifth set victory.
In the decising set, Jim Thorpe found itself down 10-6, but came back to knot things up at 12-12 on a Shannon Green ace. The Olympians would then reel off three straight points on a Mackenzie Walck kill, an Erin Shigo slam, and a Green ace to finish off PV.
Green led the Olympians in kills on the night with 13 and constantly sent the ball with force, flying into the middle of the PV zone. Walck, Drew Young, and Shigo were solid all night as well with Walck getting seven kills and two blocks, Young getting six kills, and Shigo chipping in with five kills. Riley Carroll had 27 assists.
"This was a match that we really wanted to win with Panther Valley being our rivals," said Walck. "We had a nice size fan section here and we knew from the get go that they believed in us. Our communication in the fifth set was key and we knew no matter what it was important for us keep our attitudes positive at all times. We played well tonight and we've been working hard and this is a big win for us."
An old adage in the world of sports is that great players don't always make great coaches. Jim Thorpe's Erin Kuhn is certainly one of the exceptions to that rule. Kuhn, who was the 2008 TIMES NEWS area Volleyball Player of the Year when she played for Marian is trying to turn the Olympians program around. So far, Kuhn and the Olympians have two wins on the season, which is two more than all of last season. It's evident Kuhn has the Olympians motivated and it's showing with their performance on the court.
"We have been working hard in practice on a lot of different fundamentals of the game," said Kuhn. "The girls played with the most heart I've seen them play with all season and I preach to them all the time that playing hard every point is an extremely big part of the game. We've been improving every day and that is also very important for an inexperienced team. This win tonight was a big step for us. We beat a good team in a loud atmosphere in the fifth set. That's not easy to do so I'm proud of the way the girls played tonight and I'm proud of how hard they've been working."