MICHIGAN CITY — Unlike her brother Karsen, Ryleigh Grott doesn't have a sandwich named after her on her grandparents' restaurant menu at Holly's restaurant.
"I've tried everything," she said. "I've got to work my way up there, I guess."
Wednesday's 18-kill performance against LaCrosse at least earned the Marquette junior consideration for an appetizer or a dessert item.
"When I get (kill), I know I can get the next one. It's very satisfying," Grott said. "I think we worked really hard. Even if we had a bad pass, we'd tell them to get the next one and they did usually. We all hustled, we all helped each other, we never gave up. The energy was there."
Getting the volleyball to Grott and fellow middle hitter Sara Molina (seven kills) was a point of emphasis for Blazers coach Matt Zima and the 24-26, 25-18, 25-18, 25-14 victory showed him they followed through on his plan.
"We had a little talk with the setters and outsides, too, about the middles not having gotten as many sets," Zima said. "We've played some really good teams, Mishawaka, Andrean, who take you out of your system a lot, so running middles becomes harder. We really wanted to get them involved and we did that, big time. You can see the effect. It balances out the entire offense. We did a pretty good job getting the pass to target and we were able to put a lot of balls away. I feel like can do that with just about anybody."
Marquette (4-4) let the first game slip away as LaCrosse ran off the final five points to prevail, but the Blazers were largely in control from that point.
"I think everyone had a really good attitude, which just made us do good," Molina said. "Everyone was working together well. We have a lot of younger talent coming up, which is helping a lot."
That group includes sophomore setter Jenna Kirby (22 assists) and freshman Diana Fields (four aces). Ally McConnell was 22-of-22 serving.
"In basketball, we won state championships and we had a lot of leadership," Grott said. "For volleyball, Ally and I are some of the older girls and we come from a winning team, so we know what it takes and we want everyone else to have that feeling. Volleyball is such a mental sport. If you have a bad mistake, shake it off, and just get the next one. You have to have the positivity."
The early test from LaCrosse wasn't a surprise to Zima, whose club prevailed in five games at the Tigers gym last season.
"We have to be resilient," he said. "The JV game, it was the same thing. Last year, it was the same thing. We knew they were going to come in and just dig out a bunch of balls and we just had to stay with it. They force you to make your own mistakes and self destruct. We've been working on the mental game the past couple weeks, and it really came together, so I'm really proud of them."
The Tigers (4-4) were minus senior setter Emily Leffew, who was out sick, prompting the move-up of Kelsey Rennier from JV.
"She did awesome for her first time playing varsity, all the way around," assistant coach Crystal Lembke said. "The other girls were very supportive of her. They had their energy up a lot. It was just little mental errors. Sometimes, they get in their own heads and can't come back out of it. They proved that they can, getting down and coming back, but they've got to continue to persevere, work hard, move their feet."