Last night the 2003 junior-filled
version of the Lincoln High School Lady Railers volleyball team
began its home season on the newly painted floor at Roy S. Anderson
gymnasium. The Railers returned home undefeated after impressive
wins in their first two matches on the road against Peoria Richwoods
and Morton. Last night didn't change that fact, as the Lady Railers
improved to 3-0 with a comeback 25-23, 22-25, 25-19 win over the
Purple Raiders of Bloomington High School.
The team has, of course, changed
dramatically after the loss of last year's senior starters. This
year the starting lineup consists of mostly familiar names, some who
continue as starters from last year and some who have stepped into
starting positions. Returning to starting positions are Brooklyn
Robbins, Samantha Conrady and Michelle McFadden. Familiar faces
filling and rotating into the spaces left by the 2003 graduating
class are Maria Benitez, Julie Fults, Megan Hoffert, Kendall Paulus,
Katie Green and Melanie Boyer. All did a great job last night -- and
it literally took every one of them to pull it off.
Also changing this year, for better or
worse, are the crucial scoring rules. No more games to 15 or
pointless "side out" scenarios or "net serve" losses. Catching the
trend of collegiate and professional volleyball, the new IHSA
"experiment" for the 2003 season is to play the best two out of
three games to 25 points, with a point being awarded to someone each
time the ball hits the floor. Missed serves count a point for the
other side, which may alter the way serving is actually carried out
by teams. The most "interesting" and perhaps the most difficult
change for the players on the court is the net serve being playable.
Most of the rule changes were made for
the express purpose of stepping up the pace of the game. Last night,
that purpose wasn't evident. In a varsity match that lasted
approximately an hour and a half in a saunalike gymnasium, the
Railer win was anything but quick.
Some things stay the same.
Like the long-running rivalry between
LCHS and all of the Bloomington-Normal programs. Even though it's
only the third match of the season, you wouldn't know it by the
intensity that's evident when Lincoln and Bloomington work the same
floor. This was no early season warm-up match. No usual
non-conference, third-match-of-the-season-type setting. This was a
fight to the end. Some things never change.
In Game 1 the Lady Railers jumped out
to a quick 8-0 lead, primarily on the excellent serving of Brooklyn
Robbins and the net play of Hoffert, Fults and McFadden. At that
point the Purple Raiders woke up and began to inch back into the
game. At 15-13 coach Howe had had enough and called a timeout, but
that didn't stop the bleeding. Bloomington's Kaeleigh Rousey
continued to serve well against the home squad, and at 15-17 coach
Howe again called the ladies to her side for a brief discussion on
focus and other such crucial matters. The game then seesawed back
and forth -- first even at 20, then even at 21. Finally, the Railers
began to pull away when it counted and ended up winning the first
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Game 2 was another hard-fought battle
from the beginning serve. It was a game where the Lady Railers again
lost focus (and a player's shoe) at a crucial time and couldn't
recover in time against a determined BHS squad that capitalized at
the end. After exchanging points throughout the game, a driving kill
from Michelle McFadden knotted the score at 18-18. The Railers then
failed to score on their own serve, 18-19. On the very next exchange
the LCHS front line lost not only a shoe off one of its players
(whose name will remain anonymous to protect the innocent) but also
its organization and intensity -- 18-20 in favor of Bloomington. At
that point coach Howe suggested, from the bench, an attitude
adjustment, but it was too late. Bloomington went on to capture Game
2 by a score of 25-22.
With the momentum now squarely on the
side of the "purple people," it was yet to be seen how the young
Railers would respond to their first challenge of the young season.
The answer: After a shaky beginning, they responded like champions.
The shaky beginning was best evidenced by BHS jumping out to a 3-0
lead, which continued to grow until the scoreboard showed an even
more serious score of 16-11 in favor of the visitors. The Railers
stayed in the game somewhat through the net play of Michelle
McFadden and Megan Hoffert, whose focus and desire to win were
evident in Game 3.
After an LCHS timeout at 11-15, the
Railers responded. Each time Bloomington would get one point, the
Railers would get three or four. That was good math for the Railers.
Bloomington could manage only four more points the entire game,
while Lincoln garnered 14 to take the deciding game and the match.
I attribute much of the end of the Game
3 comeback victory to the tireless hustle (resulting, I am sure,
from strength gained in preseason conditioning) of the entire team,
but especially Katie Green and Brooklyn Robbins. Katie's
face-to-the-floor dig allowed the score to be tied at 17-17, and her
behind-the-bench pass from off the court took her team to 21-18.
Brooklyn's tireless efforts at setting and serving, added to her
defensive efforts, were especially notable. While Katie, Brooklyn
and others were running all over the back court defensively,
Samantha Conrady, Julie Fults and Kedall Paulus took control of the
net at the end. Once again the team effort resulted in the victory.
Here are the notable varsity numbers
for the entire match: kills -- McFadden 12, Conrady 10; assists --
Robbins 33; service points -- Robbins 10, Green and Fults 7 each;
digs -- McFadden 18 and Conrady 11.
In junior varsity action LCHS also
defeated BHS, by scores of 25-22 and 25-18. The JV also remains
undefeated in match play. The Lady Railer freshman lost a tough
match by scores of 24-26 and 24-26.
The Lady Railers play another
Bloomington-Normal rival, Normal West, at home on Thursday. The
freshman match begins at 4:45 p.m. with the JV and varsity matches
to follow. Normal West also beat Bloomington last week. Look for
another tough match between the Lady Railers and Normal West. Some
things never change.
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