NEW ALBANY — IU Kokomo remained unbeaten on the season, and in River States Conference play, with a 25-14, 25-21, 25-22 victory at IU Southeast in college volleyball action Tuesday night.

Delaney Nichols led the Grenadiers with 11 kills while Izzy Stallard added nine and Alexis Bassett seven. Hannah Sipe dished out 30 assists while Kenna Burman had 18 digs, leaving her just 16 away from becoming the Grenadiers’ career leader. Alexis Bassett also had one solo block and three block assists to lead the Grenadiers.

Lizzy Sokeland and Lorelei Porter each had 12 kills to lead the Cougars while former Silver Creek standout Zoie Zimmerman, a sophomore defensive specialist, had nine digs and an assist for IUK.

IU Kokomo (11-0, 9-0 RSC) roared out to a first set win. The Cougars hit .333 in the opening frame and led by as many as 11 points. The Grenadiers got within 12-10, but a 10-2 IUK run put the first set out of reach

In the second set, the Grenadiers (4-5, 4-5 RSC) fell behind 11-3 before cutting the deficit to 21-20 behind the play of Nichols. She recorded six kills in the set as IUS rallied. However, Sokeland recorded two kills and Porter added another to force set point. A Grenadier attack error ended the set.

In the third set, IUS jumped out to an 8-2 lead behind two kills by Stallard and two from Nichols. Hannah Miller and Bassett also had kills and the Grenadiers were aided by a couple of Cougar errors as well.

A IUK attack error, followed by a kill from Stallard and an ace by Brandy Eisenback helped IUS amass an 18-10 lead. The Cougars, however, scored 12 of the next 13 points to take a 22-19 lead. After the Cougars forced match point at 24-20, an IUK attack error and a kill by Nichols kept the Grenadiers alive. However, a kill by Audrey Strawsma ended the match.

IUS hosts Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) at 7 p.m. Thursday.

BALL READY FOR LEADERSHIP ROLE FROM SIDELINES

BLOOMINGTON — By outward appearances, Indiana senior defensive back Marcelino Ball was enjoying a breakthrough 2019 season.

Ball thrived at the hybrid defensive back-linebacker husky position for IU, with two sacks, two pass breakups and a team-high six quarterback hurries.

Inside, though, Ball was struggling, dealing with anxiety that comes with the week-by-week expectations of playing Big Ten football.

“Although 2019 was a good year personally for me, as a team we went crazy, 8-4, but for me, it was a terrible year,” Ball said.

Ball said he’s at peace now, even after a torn ACL at the start of camp four weeks ago sidelined him for the 2020 season. He was voted as one of five team captains and said he’s ready to take on the role of player-coach, similar to a role former IU offensive lineman Coy Cronk provided when he went down with a season-ending injury last season.

“I’m keeping my mind right, with trying to communicate, stay close to the team,” Ball said. “Trying to keep whatever I was improving on mentally in the game, keep improving on that, helping with my teammates.”

Ball said he is scheduled to undergo surgery Friday and wants to be on the sideline Saturday for IU’s season opener against No. 8 Penn State (3:30 p.m., FS1).

Kevin Brockway, CNHI Sports Indiana

“I’d rather be a resource, a reason why we improve and win games from the sideline view rather than mope around because I’m not playing,” Ball said.

At this point, Ball said he hasn’t considered whether to apply for a medical redshirt for a sixth year of eligibility. Considering what he’s been through, Ball, a 6-foot, 220-pound Roswell, Georgia, native, is just focusing on what’s immediately in front on him. Ball said the racing thoughts he endured last season extended into the offseason, but it took the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic for him to step away and reassess his college football career.

“For me, it was a sense of just a time to get my mind right,” Ball said. “Be at home, take some time off …

“It kind of like — it kind of helped me subtract things, the risk reward for this … as far as football, I want that. I want the rewards for that. I want the rewards of having teammates and building the relationships and winning and competing. I love that, so that made me get back into my zone.”

Ball said he redoubled his efforts in training during the spring and summer, pushing himself to train harder and become the best player he could become.

“I feel like it really showed throughout the 13 days I was out there,” Ball said. “Nobody could outrun me. I did not want to be off the field. I was impeccable.”

Then the injury happened, a freak non-contact injury that occurred when Ball planted on the turf and twisted his knee. But Ball said he’s in a better place now to deal with the adversity. He’s also excited to mentor his replacement, junior defensive back Bryant Fitzgerald, who he believes will excel at the husky position the way he did last season.

“He’s going to pick up where I left off,” Ball said. “He’s going to patrol that area as far as — wide receivers are not going to run bubbles. They are not going to want to block him, tight ends, it don’t matter who it is, so getting into coverage, being a run stopper, he’s going to do it all. So I have no worries with 31 right there, and what’s crazy when I got hurt on whatever day it was, I called and I was like, be ready, and he was like, ‘oh, yeah, I’m already here.’ He already knew it was his time.”

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