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Friday, Sept. 10

'One' is the loneliest number

By Rick Hobler          Send a link to a friend

[SEPT. 10, 2004]  If you asked me to give you one good reason that the Normal West Wildcats lost to Lincoln last night…

I could easily do it.

If you asked me to give you one good reason that the Lady Railers dominated Normal West last night…

I couldn't do that.

In a much-anticipated early-season matchup, the Lady Railers traveled to Normal West last night to see how well they -- How should I say it? -- matched up. It was the second time this week that the Railers had made the pilgrimage to McLean County. Earlier in the week, LCHS had gone to and beaten Bloomington High School.

On the trip up last night, the Railers knew three things: Normal West had also soundly beaten Bloomington last week, Normal West had just beaten the Railers' CS8 rival Jacksonville on Tuesday night, and both teams were undefeated going into the match. So the stage was set for a close match.

Or so I thought. I was wrong.

From start to finish last night, the Lady Railers dominated. From coaching strategy to serving, to setting, to defense, to net play, to… well, you name it and LCHS dominated it.

The Railers won the match 25-15, 25-14, with the end result never seriously in doubt.

So, what was the one good reason that West didn't win? Here it is. They had only one reason they could have won and her name is Katie Vatterrodt, their talented and strong 6-foot-2 senior outside hitter, who is headed to play Division I volleyball next year. The problem was, that was ALL West had. At least last night. Almost every set went to Vatterrodt while she was at the net. Knowing that fact, the Railers basically only had to defend against Vatterrodt. When Vatterrodt rotated to the back row, West was done.

The same thing cannot be said about the Lady Railers. The reason I can't give you one good reason the Railers won is this: There were at least nine or 10 good reasons the Railers won, all summed up by the word "TEAM."

Every starter and every other player Lincoln's coach Howe rotated in made a significant contribution. Railer setter Brooklyn Robbins had more choices to go to last night than she even needed: McFadden, Hoffert, Fults, Frick, Fitzpatrick and, near the end, Boward. And when Brooklyn needed a change of pace, she killed the ball herself or tipped it into the open court.

Add to this that the Railer serving was much improved over Tuesday night's match. By my count, Mel Boyer had nine service points in the second game alone. Four of them were aces and two more were so good (I call them "pretty darn good") that they were virtually unplayable by West. Mel began the serving in the second game, and before she rotated off the service line, the Railers were up 7-0. Also, Michelle Fitzpatrick had six service points of her own during the match, with a five-point unbroken run at the midpoint of the first game. Maria Benitez added five more, including three aces.


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Strategic short serving was also effective. I heard a potentially untrue rumor that between Tuesday's and Thursday's matches, Lincoln's coach conducted her own scientific experiment to see if there was a direct correlation between running laps in practice and improved serving in games. Who could have known there was? I am sure the Railers appreciated the coach's interest in adding to the base of scientific knowledge. I know the fans appreciated the great serving.

The Lady Railer defense was also sharp, with enough Railer bodies on the floor all night to save the West janitorial staff most of its nightly work. Michelle Fitzpatrick came up with nine digs and Robbins had four of her own, two or three of which were of the diving, one-handed type. If a volleyball hit the Railer side of the floor, there was usually a Railer player nearby attempting to prevent it from happening.

So, I was wrong for thinking the match would be so close. This is one time I can live with being wrong. Railer fans will probably forgive me. Wildcat fans were mostly quiet.

The Railers next make their annual trek to this weekend's tournament at St Francis Borgia High School in the Washington, Mo., area. The Railers then return to regular match play at Urbana on Thursday, Sept. 16.

There are certainly not one, but many, good reasons to believe that they will continue to do well as a team. But there is, of course, a long way yet to go.


Junior varsity wins again; freshmen fall

The junior varsity Lady Railers kept up their winning ways last night by also defeating the Normal West Wildcats… but they did it the hard way. After losing the first game of the match 22-25, the JV stormed back to dominate the second game by a score of 25-10. The third game saw the Railers go up early by a score of 11-4 and then lose some of their focus but manage to win 15-11.

The junior varsity also had an all-around team effort, with special note going to the excellent play of Katie Conklen at the service line and on defense.

The JV Lady Railers also sport a 4-0 record.

The Railer freshmen lost their first match of the year, falling to Normal West by scores of 16-25, 20-25. The freshman will, I'm confident, bounce back as they travel by themselves to Glenwood next Wednesday night for a scheduled 6 p.m. start.

[Rick Hobler]

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