UNION MILLS | Feeling the season slipping away after getting swept out of the first round of the Porter County Conference tournament, South Central volleyball coach Ashley Rinker knew she needed to try something unconventional.
She started by taking down the nets.
“We walked into practice and coach had us take down everything and we ran,” South Central senior Briana Satoski said. “We ran a ton and then we sat together and we talked. We talked about our motivation and that made us realize that we can’t wait around anymore. It was a real reality check.”
The coaching tactic worked as the Satellites didn’t lose a game at the Class A Oregon-Davis sectional last week, registering three straight sweeps, including a 25-11, 25-12, 25-12 win over the host Bobcats.
“We’re not practicing for skills at this point, so I knew we could lose the practice,” Rinker said. “If we’re still trying to learn the skills at this point of the season, we’ve got bigger problems. You go to practice to hit a ball and to stay in shape.”
Rinker reiterated to the team that the next loss would mean the end of the season and for several players, the end of their careers. The conversation impacted the entire team, especially Satoski. The senior put a lot on the line this season, stepping away from softball last year to solely focus on volleyball.
“We didn’t get out of the first round last season and that left me with a bad taste for the last year,” Satoski said. “When one person on the team is down we all get down, but since that practice, we’ve all been up.”
Satoski, who has given her verbal commitment to play volleyball at Goshen College next season, is one of four seniors that could be playing their final match of their career tonight against top-ranked Fort Wayne Blackhawk.
When addressing the end game of the season with her team, Rinker chose to look beyond just the seniors.
“Tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone,” Rinker said. “There are no guarantees. Just because you play this year doesn’t mean you’re playing next year. We have to approach every day like it could be the final practice; like it could be the final game.”
Preparation for tonight’s match began almost immediately after South Central won the sectional title. Rinker scouted the Braves on Saturday night while a conversation at a team dinner was more about the future than the past.
The Satellites are planning a “Red Out” and expect a packed house for their first regional game in three years.
“Now that we won the sectional, we’re not satisfied,” Satoski said. “We’re ready to keep this going.”