LANSING | Illiana Christian posted a comfortable Metro Suburban Conference win Tuesday over Fenton. Maybe too comfortable.
After the Vikings disposed of the Bison 25-16, 25-14, coach Nikki Van Dyke observed, "I thought our intensity could have been a little higher for a home game.
"Of course, we're also coming off a very long weekend."
Illiana is 7-8 overall (3-0), a mark that would look much better without four losses in five games at the Nike Crossroads Classic in Effingham.
The Vikings didn't get back to the hotel until past 11 p.m. after their second match Friday night, were back on the court early Saturday, lost three matches that day and then had a three-hour bus trip back to Lansing.
It wasn't all sing-alongs and games of "Punch Bug."
"Saturday, we had a couple of girls going, 'Holy cow, we (stink),'" Van Dyke said. "But I think they understand now."
It helped that senior defensive specialist Katherine Witting understood then. She'd not seen the Vikings advance out of the bronze flight in previous trips to the 24-team event, and a win Friday got them into the silver.
"I feel like that was a great accomplishment," Witting said. "Even though we won one out of five, coach says we have to redefine success -- and we did what we set out to do there."
Work remains in the Metro Suburban, though the Vikings are off to a good start with wins over Glenbard South, Riverside-Brookfield and Fenton.
The Bison (6-8, 1-2) never threatened Illiana, which got 12 kills from Jamie Petrarca and 10 from Sydnee VanBeek. Witting had 11 service points, three digs and was 5-for-5 on serve receive, all while playing morale officer.
"As a senior, I feel like I have to keep everyone in the game," Witting said of a lineup that has two sophomores and three juniors. "Even against a team that's not so great, we have to keep our focus."
Petrarca didn't need the help. The 6-foot-1 junior, who usually cedes the spotlight to VanBeek, has been getting noticed of late. She made all-tournament at Chicago Christian earlier this season and got second-team recognition at the Crossroads Challenge.
Tuesday, she connected from both the outside and middle spots, running quicks and slides. Of her seven kills in the opening set, only one came on a tip, and she had three in a row -- two from the outside, one on a quick in the middle -- to close it out.
"I feel like my offensive game has gotten a lot better the first few weeks of the season, even," Petrarca said.
She has turned up her aggressiveness, she said, for the simplest of reasons.
"I love getting sets," she said. "I feel like I get set more if I get the job done."