MICHIGAN CITY — Amber McCaw’s pregame message to her Chesterton volleyball team was simple. The second-year coach implored the Trojans to accomplish something different on Thursday night.
Through the first five Duneland Athletic Conference matches of the season, the Trojans had beaten the same teams they beat last year and lost to the same teams they did a year ago, as well. Thursday’s match against Michigan City was a chance to turn the page after Chesterton fell to the Wolves three times last year, including a season-ending sweep in the postseason.
The Trojans answered the call on Thursday, sweeping Michigan City 26-24, 25-23, 25-17 in a road conference match. It was Chesterton’s third win this week and the third time the Trojans have swept a road match in the last eight days.
“It’s been so good to watch them play (this year),” McCaw said. “Their progression has been wonderful. We made some strides this year and now we’re pretty young, but to see them come out and win three matches this week, it’s been great.”
There were plenty of opportunities for pitfalls on Thursday. Playing on the road in the DAC is never easy and McCaw joked after the match that this weekend’s homecoming festivities were top of mind for her players, as well. Finally, Thursday was senior setter Vivi Smilgius’ 18th birthday.
“Having a September birthday, I’ve always had a match on my birthday dating back to when I was in seventh grade,” Smilgius said. “It’s always fun to spend it with a team. We’re really close and having a lot of fun playing with each other, so it’s great to be together.”
Smilgius had 14 assists and seven digs to go along with an ace and a kill on her one hitting attempt. The senior captain took to heart the pregame message as she vividly remembered the feeling of losing in a variety of ways to Michigan City last season. The Trojans lost in four games at home before losing a five-game heartbreaker on the road. The Wolves then swept Chesterton in sectional play.
“Coach told us that we haven’t actually done anything new yet this season,” Smilgius said. “This was big for us. A chance to come out and beat a good team on the road.”
The Trojans (8-3, 3-3) scrapped out a 26-24 win in the first game and then came from behind in the second game by scoring the final four points in a victory. Chesterton jumped out to a big lead in the final game before holding off Michigan City.
“We’ve been missing a lot of serves and that hurt us tonight,” Michigan City coach Jim Kaufman said. “I’m not upset with the way we played. We need to work to minimize our mistakes. Tonight was the second time this season that we led 23-21 in a match and ended up losing 25-23.”
Ellery Dolezal led the Wolves (7-4, 2-4) with 11 kills, 11 digs and four aces while Reece Shirley had seven kills and 25 assists. Meghan Gaffigan led Chesterton with 13 kills.