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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, August 20, 2017 12:00 am

Dwenger, Concordia volleyball coaches reflect on SAC Tournament

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

For Class 4A Concordia and 3A Bishop Dwenger volleyball teams, the SAC Preseason Tournament provides a glimpse of what the other teams in the conference are capable of.

It also provides an opportunity to compete in a high-level, high-emotion environment like the one in the championship where the Saints won 3-2 (25-16, 23-25, 25-27, 25-20, 16-14).

"It's a well-coached, great team every year," Bishop Dwenger coach Tim Houser said of the Cadets. "It seems like we always battle for this. The first couple times we didn't get it (against Concordia) and this year, we did. It's just emotion. You saw our bench and our fans, we played on a lot of emotion right there. We battled back."

Houser previously spent five years under Concordia coach Trish Miller before taking over the Saints program five years ago.

"She taught me a lot of what I do," Houser said of his mentor. "When we're on the court, against each other, both of us want to win pretty bad. I've been on the other end of that for a while. It's nice to be on this end for once, I know it doesn't come easy.

"She's a great coach, a great mentor and she supports me. Outside of when we play (each other), there's not a bigger supporter for me and I'm a big supporter for her."

The coaches love facing each other because they know they're each going to get a good game with good competition, as evidenced by the close SAC championship.

"It's not personal," Miller said. "It's not personal but us getting our kids to play the best we can and laying it all out. Trying to strategize, make moves. That's the fun of it. I would rather lose a match like that, that we just finished, than have a blowout match and not get better.

"To me, it's not a loss. It is not a loss. to go back to the drawing board and back to the practices; our kids will. They're hungry to get better. That's what it's about. Nobody likes to lose but it makes you a winner if you go back and keep plugging away. Never give up. I'm proud of my kids, they didn't give up."

The championship match also showed Miller the tenacity of the team she coaches, despite it being early in the season.

"Our kids will never give up," she said. "This game of volleyball, it's a crazy game. Momentum shifts, you just stay the course. You keep on plugging. You keep on trying to get something going.

"I thought our kids responded and we had match-point and didn't finish and I thought, it was the best preseason match we've been in. The highest level in the conference."

The Saints have now won two consecutive tournament titles but haven't won a regular season title.

The emotion and desire for success drives the team in the tournament unlike other invitationals throughout the regular season.

"It's our conference," Houser said. "I haven't won a conference title, yet. This is the first step. We have to go through a lot of quality teams to get there by the end of the year but it's a step.

"We're a little young this year (with two seniors). We have a lot of juniors but we lost a lot of seniors last year. I think we graduated five seniors. We have a lot of players in a lot of new roles and I thought they stepped up in doing that."