TERRE HAUTE —
Stephanie Millington had been an assistant volleyball coach at Terre Haute South High School the previous two seasons so she’s familiar with the intensity that comes with the rivalry match against Terre Haute North.
“It’s a great atmosphere to play in,” she said Wednesday. “It’s a fun match to be part of.”
Tonight will be Millington’s first experience as South’s head coach — albeit with “interim” in her title — as the Braves welcome the Patriots to their gym for a night of “Volleyball For the Small” activities.
The junior varsity match will begin at 5:30 p.m., then the “Volleyball For the Small” festivities — including the Union Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Parade of Babies — then the varsity match to follow.
“What I like about this is our girls get to see families they’ve helped in the past,” Millington told the Tribune-Star about the annual fundraiser.
“Both of our teams have worked very hard as far as fundraising for this event,” North coach Kris Painter added.
Proceeds from tonight go to the Union Hospital Foundation’s NICU Family Assistance Fund.
South will take varsity records of 11-10 overall and 0-1 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference into the match, while North is 11-5 and 0-1 respectively.
Millington’s Braves have three seniors — libero Marissa Coutinho, right-side hitter Bailee Williams and defensive specialist Kaitlynn Gilmore — along with a good mix of young players that includes junior outside hitter Maddie Callahan, 6-foot freshman outside hitter Caitlyn Newton, sophomore middle hitter Meaghan Etling, sophomore defensive specialist Riley Davis and freshman setter Natalie Scamihorn.
“We started off the season with lots of injuries, but they’re all back and all healthy now,” Millington pointed out. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but I’m watching them get better every day.”
Millington knows North will be a formidable opponent, although she’s more concerned about her own team executing its strategies.
“It’s all about us and doing what we’re supposed to do,” she emphasized.
From the Patriots’ perspective, Painter will depend on hitters Mandee Eberle, a junior, and Brianna Burgess, a senior, for providing the bulk of their kills. Also expected to contribute are senior setter Anna Taylor, senior libero Maddy Howes, junior defensive specialist Kristen Mauer and sophomore hitters Lindsey Klingele and Valerie Lewis.
“Those five losses that we have … we have improved our schedule and gone to some tournaments which have given us tougher competition,” Painter mentioned. “We’ve got a lot more tough matches under our belt than we usually have going into this match. We had a really good five-game win at Bloomington North last week.”
Painter admitted that the Braves will be difficult to contain.
“Their big freshman hitter [Newton] is a concern,” the Patriots’ veteran coach said. “And anytime it’s a North-South match, that concerns you because of the increased crowd. I think they’re all-around solid and we’re just going to have to come in ready to play.”