The 15 Hawks went into the Hoosier Mideast Qualifier (March 18-20, Indianapolis) with the goal of finishing in the top 10. The first day the Hawks started to send the message to the other teams: "We are here to win!"
The Hawks' first opponents included Kane City Juniors Gold (Chicago, IL). The Hawks won 25-17, 25-17. Next was Ultimate Girls Blue (Florida). The Hawks walked away with the match, 25-13, 25-10. The final match for the day was Fox Cities Elite 15-1 (Green Bay, WI). The Hawks won again, 25-17, 25-17. That night, the Hawks had a great team dinner at O'Charley's, celebrating coach Meghan's birthday (not til July? Oh well, it was fun!)
On Day 2, the next round found the Hawks still flying high, but facing greater challenges than on day 1. First up was a good opponent in NKJV 15-1, presenting the Hawks' closest battle until their final match. The Hawks won the match, 25-23, 25-22, behind a consistent and balanced offense and a tremendous defense.
Their second match of day 2 was against Decatur Force 15 White, currently ranked #7 in 15 Open in the OVR. This was the only match of the tournament in which the Hawks went 3 games. The Hawks lost the first game, 21-25, but were no less confident they could play with this top-10 team. Game 2 saw the Hawks become more aggressive, putting kills down with authority, and making Decatur Force look like a farce... the Hawks won, 25-18. Game 3 gave the Hawks some excitement. A rallying point for the girls came from the tremendous hustle of Blake Robinson... Blake ran off-court to make a play on the ball, when a spectator reached up and caught the ball before she could hit it. This got every Hawk player, coach and parent fired up. The ref made the right call: "Replay". This sent the Hawks on to rally and win game 3, 15-8. Up next: the playoff match for a berth in the Gold or Silver bracket.
The Hawks' opponent was Cleveland Volleyball Company 15 Black, the scrappy team ranked #9 in the OVR and to whom the Hawks recently lost in 3 games at the Power Challenge. But the Hawks were only seeing Gold, and would not be denied their revenge on CVC. The first game was a back-and-forth struggle. The game was tight... The Hawks were down 19-20, until the intimidating blocking by Kim Rosen gave the Hawks points 20 and 21 on consecutive blocks. The Hawks went on to win game 1, 25-21. This loss liquidated the Cleveland Volleyball Company, and the Hawks rolled to victory in game 2, 25-14.
Day 3: the Gold tournament. The Hawks' first opponent was familiar: Fox Cities Elite 15-1, who the Hawks beat on day 1. But on day Fox Cities was missing an intimidating outside hitter, who unfortunately returned for the rest of the tournament. Game 1 was a battle, and some questionable calls by the ref, including one that caused the Hawks score to go from 24-23 down to 23-23, swung the momentum to Fox Cities, resulting in a 24-26 loss for the Hawks. Game 2 saw some outstanding hitting and passing... unfortunately not by the Hawks. The Hawks went on to lose the match, 20-25.
This finish was good enough to put the Hawks in 9th place in the Gold bracket, 9th out of 106 teams at the tournament. The last few tournaments have also taught the Hawks something: they can play with and beat any of the so-called top-10 OVR teams in 15 Open. They consistently step up to the challenge. The Hawks are looking forward to the OVR-Molten® 2005 National Bid Qualifier in April for their chance to earn a bid to Nationals.
"Ah, you can't stop the train!"