La PORTE — Standing 6-foot-3, Lilly Stoddard of Crown Point states the obvious when it comes to her height on a volleyball court.
"It definitely helps that I'm taller," said the sophomore who can dunk a tennis ball. "I can see more of the court when I'm jumping. I see an open spot, an open area, I try to go for it. Rachel (Rossman) and Olivia (Panepinto) are great at getting the set right. My confidence is definitely going up a lot."
Stoddard was a force at the net Thursday at Slicer Gym, where her 12 kills and six blocks powered the Bulldogs to a 25-23, 28-26, 21-25, 25-23 victory over La Porte in an early-season clash of Duneland Athletic Conference powers.
"She's freakishly athletic," CP coach Alison Duncan said of Stoddard. "I thought our middles (Stoddard and Hannah Keaveny) played exceptionally. I have so much faith in my athletes. They've played in big games all season. They're ready for this. It's not about pressure, it's about performing. They've come a long way from last year. They're taking control of the match, terminating, putting balls down. We did a really nice job blocking and a nice job hitting."
CP registered 20 blocks in the match to La Porte's six.
"It really helps brings up the energy," Stoddard said. "Everybody gets really excited. They beat us last year, so we wanted to come back and play really hard."
Blocks were the most telling statistic for Slicers coach Cassie Holmquest.
"We just did not block at all. We literally did not block," she said. "If we had gotten some blocks, it would've put is in a better spot. I don't know where we were. We just wanted to hit."
Our four games had a back-and-forth ebb and flow to them, but the Bulldogs got it done at critical times early to pull out the first two games.
"This is a hard place to play in because you're coming so far," Duncan said. "It's like an hour-and-a-half ride. We get kind of dead and they always have a great cheering section, very loud fans, so it's tough for us to come in with energy."
La Porte forced a fourth game, but CP pulled ahead in the fourth, withstanding a last-ditch five-point run by the hosts to close out the victory.
"I feel like when we did the things we talked about needing to do, that's when we played well," Holmquest said. "It's the reason why we won the third game. When we didn't do what we needed to do, we couldn't pull through. We were there every time. I feel like I know the team we have, the potential we have, we just need to really do what we need to do. They know what they're supposed to be doing, where they're supposed to be."
The loss overshadowed a massive hitting performance by Aniya Kennedy, dubbed "The Aniyalator" by the student section, as the sophomore connected on 24 kills. Cheyanne Seymour made seven and Annalise Warnock struck for six to go with 17 digs. Paige Conklin set 19 assists.
"We need to do a better job defending Aniya the next time," Duncan said. "We played her a little shallow. We need to read the tips a little better. It's a great win, but it's over now."
Like Duncan, Holmquest is looking forward after having her team lose in the DAC for the first time since the 2017 season.
"We play them again," she said. "You can't put it all on one game."
Crown Point 25-28-21-25, La Porte 23-26-25-23
The Slicers' Aniya Kennedy had 24 kills.