I figured wrong.
In the span of about 30 minutes the
Lincoln Lady Railers volleyball team completely dismantled
Centennial by lopsided scores of 25-18 and 25-5. In both games the
Railers jumped out to big early leads and were never seriously
threatened. It was not the match I expected.
The Centennial players and coach
were stunned after the match. Anyone with a heart had to feel a
little badly for Centennial. The Railers expressed their condolences
and were then ready to move on to Thursday.
Mia Benitez gave the Railers its
quick start in game one, and after a brief Centennial run, Lincoln
put the game away. Six successive serves from Mia and finishing
kills by either Michi McFadden or Megan Hoffert put the Railers up
6-0. Centennial fought its way back within three at 13-10, 17-14 and
18-15 but could never get any closer. Katie Green had a nice
three-point service run and played some great "on the floor" defense
to get her team to 16-11. At 18-15, the Railer front line utilized
Megan Hoffert, Julie Fults, Michi McFadden and Jamie McFadden to
move within striking distance of the win at 22-17. Erin Frick put
the finishing touches on the matter with a couple of quick hits from
her middle position to end the game. Brooklyn Robbins did her usual
superb job of spreading the ball around and helping to avoid
defensive blocks by Centennial.
Another great service run, this time
by Michelle Fitzpatrick, put game two away almost as soon as it
started. Michelle put on quite a show as she carefully placed
serves, short and soft or more direct, when instructed to do so by
the Railer coaches, and rolled off 13 points in a row. You read that
right… 13 points in a row. With the Railers up 14-1, the only matter
left for Lincoln was to not lose focus and to finish. They didn't
and they did. Brooklyn Robbins, as usual, made sure of that. Four
straight service points by Brooklyn and three nice touches by Michi
McFadden brought the score to 20-2. Erin Frick and Megan Hoffert
again helped finish the match off by the crushing score of 25-5.
Centennial's coach, rarely overly
gracious about Lincoln teams in the past, acknowledged the obvious
when he commented that Lincoln "was a lot better than us tonight."
He added, "We dug ourselves such a big hole in both games that we
couldn't get out."
When I asked Centennial's star
player, Kelly Schmidt for a comment, she told me that she just felt
"speechless" and preferred not to comment. After what Centennial had
just experienced, I honored her preference.
[to top of second column in
In the evening's second semifinal
match of the night, Normal Community High School and Bloomington
High School went to the wire, with Normal pulling out the win in
three games, 25-14, 22-25 and 25-16. BHS tried to win by using
little drop shots and finesse. They learned again that you don't
beat Normal with finesse.
Thoughts quickly turned to the
rematch between Lincoln and Normal Community.
Normal defeated Lincoln at home
earlier this year. In fact, Normal's head coach, Andrea Kenny, twice
pointed out to me and other reporters, in a post-match interview,
that not only had they beaten Lincoln this year, but in her
words, "We beat Lincoln fairly easily once this year
already." Coach Kenny was, of course quick to add that she was
sure Lincoln "has improved since that first match," and, of course,
"so have we." Coach Kenny went on to indicate that she will work on
front-line blocking to stifle the Railer hitters.
She also pointed out that her team
is mentally tough and will stay in the match, no matter what, to the
very end. "It doesn't matter if we get down by several points or
even if we lose a game, we don't lose our composure. We are in it
for the long haul; that's how we win," she added.
The Railers will undoubtedly have a
response in their play on Thursday night.
It appears that in order to win, the
Railers will have to do at least the following: The Railers will
first and foremost have to be mentally tougher than NCHS. That task
will fall to all the Railer seniors, but especially Robbins,
McFadden, Hoffert and Fults. Erin Frick will need to block like
never before. McFadden will have to get the call often and do what
she does with it: finish it. Benitez, Fitzpatrick, Boyer and Green
will have to carry the service and serve-receive load. Every point
will need to be fully contested. Nothing can hit Lincoln's side of
the floor without an all-out effort to stop it. The Railers will
have to play their game and not Normal's game. Robbins will need to
be fully aware of Normal's defensive blocking scheme and set the
ball where it is not whenever possible. The Railer bench will have
to respond as needed, especially to the unexpected. A tall order
that I am confident the Railers are ready to deliver.
Three down and five to go. Number
four, tomorrow night, will be huge. It will, without a doubt, be the
match of the year so far. Refuse to lose.
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