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IU Kokomo RSC champions: After perfect season, Cougars complete the three-peat

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volleyball champs

THREE-PEAT — Head Coach Heather Hayes said an instrumental part of the team's growth this season is attributed to its depth. The Cougars have 22 players on the roster, and competing against each other in practice was a huge advantage, she said.

The Cougars swept IU East on Saturday 25-21, 25-19, 25-18 to win the River States Conference title and tie the knot on their perfect season with a final record of 18-0.

This is IU Kokomo's third straight conference championship and sixth straight trip to it. Head Coach Heather Hayes said this was the best team she's ever coached.

"I am so thrilled for our players to finish this season filled with adversity undefeated. At no point have we even talked about remaining undefeated. We just wanted to play to the best of our ability, and we did that today and most of the season," Hayes said. "This season is the best team we have ever had. We have an offense with a lot of weapons and depth. We do not rely on just one or two players like we have in the past. Our back row also does a nice job of not letting much hit the floor."

The championship marks the fifth in program history. Senior Erinn Adam led the team with 11 kills on 24 attacks, and fellow senior Lizzie Sokeland recorded 10 kills and game-high five blocks.

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The Cougars are one of the only teams in the country to play their entire season in masks. Hayes said it was a mental obstacle early on but ultimately helped keep the team on track.

"I do not think wearing the masks gave us any advantage per se, but I do think it was a mental hurdle we had to overcome. I think it kept us from getting the usual October cold, which led to less players sitting out for practice," Hayes said.

The win stifled IU East's undefeated run as the Red Wolves finished 13-1 on the season. Their record is smaller because of postponed games due to COVID-19, which IU Kokomo was able to avoid, possibly because of stressing masks early on, in practices and on match days.

The team only dropped three sets over the course of the season, as the deep and dominant team refused to lose.

The Cougars will return to the court for its 2021 season and will compete in the opening round of the NAIA Volleyball National Championship Tournament on April 17.