The burden of expectations can be a heavy one.
Following another glittering regular season, the La Porte volleyball team heads into the state tournament with high aspirations, though Slicers coach Cassie Holmquest is being careful not to put too much on the shoulders of her players.
“Last year, we had a fantastic regular season, but lost a heartbreaker (to Penn) in the sectionals,” Holmquest said. “I think the girls last season felt like they had these lofty expectations to meet in the postseason, and I don’t want that for the girls this year. Anything can happen in the postseason, so control what you can, focus on the team in front of you, and have fun.”
La Porte rolls into the tournament at 24-5 with four of those five losses coming to Crown Point and Munster (twice each).
“I feel like we are playing well,” Holmquest said. “We get into some spots where we make errors, and I am trying to get the girls to move on from them. They happen, so learn from it and move on. But overall, I think we are ready. I think this is the most balanced team I have had, and they’ve gelled over the season.”
The Slicers open Thursday at Mishawaka against South Bend Adams, a potential semifinal matchup with Plymouth looming in the semifinals. La Porte won a competitive four-game match over the Pilgrims on Aug. 20.
“I try not to look too far ahead when it comes to the postseason,” Holmquest said. “I think we have the talent to make a run, but we are taking it one game at a time. Our focus right now is Adams, and we will proceed from there should we win.”
The site doesn’t have a defending champion in it with Penn moved east, though it does have a sectional winner in the field with Michigan City, which took the title at Hobart last season. That said, Wolves coach Jim Kaufman knows the Slicers are the team to beat.
“La Porte’s a tough matchup,” Kaufman said. “They have big hitters, big jumpers. We can give them a match, but we’ve got to play, do things right. If we play well, that’s all I can ask.”
City was crushed by La Porte in their most recent meeting, the low point of a three-match stretch in which the Wolves lost to both Merrillville and Valpo in five sets, 16-14 in the fifth both times.
“We really stunk it up,” Kaufman said. “We talked to the girls and we’ve gotten the ship back together. We lost, but we had a good showing against Crown Point.”
Assuming the Wolves handle Riley in Thursday’s first round, they’ll get Mishawaka in Saturday’s semifinals. The Cavemen edged Michigan City in its tournament in three games. After winning the opener, City committed seven serving errors in losing the second game, 29-27, then dropped the third, 17-15.
“I just watched the film of that match actually,” Kaufman said. “There’s stuff to work on, but we know what we’re capable of. We’re not looking past Riley.”
Class 4A Mishawaka Sectional
La Porte (24-5) vs. South Bend Adams (9-19), 5 p.m.
Michigan City (12-15) vs. South Bend Riley (11-14), to follow