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Foresters grab three wins, sweep Crossroads League honors

DIG: Huntington native Ariene Butler recorded the 1,000th dig of her Huntington University career on Friday while also earning the Crossroads League’s Defender of the Week honor during the Foresters’ invitational over the weekend.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

The Huntington University volleyball team kicked off the 2019–20 school year for Forester sports over the weekend, going 3–1 in their Forester Invitational games in Platt Arena.

The Foresters started their season Friday morning with a 3–0 (19–25, 14–25, 15–25) loss to Brescia. Though the loss would appear one-sided on paper, the match was competitive start to finish.

Despite the defeat, junior Ariene Butler reached a milestone in the match, recording the 1,000th dig of her career. The Huntington native entered Friday needing just nine digs to reach the 1,000 mark and finished the match with a team-best 12 digs.

The Foresters rebounded in the second game of the day, bringing a much higher level of energy to the floor for their matchup with Baker. The energy clearly made a difference from the get-go, as Huntington exploded for a quick 10–1 advantage in the first set.

The Wildcats answered for a pair of nail-biting wins in sets two and three to take a 2–1 edge in the match, but the Foresters rallied to take sets four and five to claim a lengthy 3–2 (25–22, 22–25, 26–28, 25–18, 15–10) victory for their first of the 2019 season and the first of head coach Kelsey Herber’s career.

“Dave Schroeder used to be the head coach of this program, and he is now one of my assistants,” Herber said in a press release. “He told me once, ‘Adrenaline will win you a couple of points. Confidence will win you matches.’ … That was the difference between match one and two today. We came out with some first game jitters but were able to come back a few hours later with new-found confidence.”

The Foresters came back out on Saturday to wrap up the tournament with a pair of games.

Huntington first picked up a convincing 3–0 (25–13, 25–21, 25–10) win over Tennessee Wesleyan, the first sweep for the Foresters since their invitational in 2018.

“This was the definition of a team effort,” Herber said. “Every single player contributed to that win. … I challenged our girls to leave no (doubt) in the other team’s mind that we were the better team. That’s exactly what they did in set three, and the scoreboard reflected it.”

The second game of the day was not as easy, but Huntington ultimately came away with a 3–1 (25–17, 25–23, 23–25, 25–19) win over Cumberlands to push their season record to 3–1 to tie for the best showing in the tournament.

Herber was again pleased with her squad’s efforts in the win.

“We beat an outstanding team tonight that never led down,” Herber said. “I’m proud of our girls for fighting to the end by encouraging one another and making adjustments. … The game of volleyball is best of five sets for a reason. We should live for moments like tonight where it’s a tight game against a good team. That’s when our most fierce mentality should occur.”

The strong weekend also resulted in the Foresters sweeping the Crossroads League’s first weekly honors, as Butler, senior Paige Eakright and junior Jennings Tacosik took home the trio of recognitions.

Butler scored the Defender of the Week honor by racking up 72 digs in four games, averaging 4.8 digs per set.

Eakright claimed the Attacker of the Week award for tallying 60 kills over the weekend, highlighted by a 20-kill outing against Cumberlands.

Tacosik grabbed Setter of the Week accolades for dishing out 136 assists. Tacosik’s best game of the tournament came in Huntington’s win over Baker, which saw the Albion, Indiana, native post 41 assists, 12 kills and four aces.

The Foresters will return to the court on Tuesday, hosting Roosevelt at 7 p.m.