Skylar Hayes (23) had 15 kills and 19 digs in an outstanding night
for the Hilltoppers. But the most solid all-around performance came
from senior Alexandra Beckers, who had 12 kills, 12 assists, 12 digs
and 2 aces.
Beckers has stepped up her game since the start of the season and
has embraced a new role on the team. “Now that I am the captain I
have kind of learned to step up and take the responsibility to get
everybody under control,” said Beckers. "I know that the game is
more concentrated on me now and I need to step up and be there for
every play that I can and I need to get my hands on every ball.”
The senior had a stellar supporting cast on Homecoming Night and
without a doubt every player on both sides stepped up their game for
this contest. With both teams having a huge crowd support, the fans
expected nothing less.
Set one saw Hartem jump out to a 4-1 lead, with sophomore Anna Hayes
getting the first kill of the evening.
The Stags quickly extended their lead to 8-2 before Mount Pulaski
Head Coach Donna Dulle called timeout. The timeout certainly ignited
the Hilltoppers, specifically Beckers, who went on to get the next
three kills and close the gap to 10-8. Consecutive calls of illegal
hits on Hartem allowed Mount Pulaski to tie the set at 11-11.
After Ashley Zinser’s attempt to get the ball over the net failed
against a couple taller ‘Toppers,' Mount Pulaski was able to capture
their first lead, 12-11 the score.
The Hilltoppers extended the lead on a kill by Abigail Fitzpatrick
and took advantage of a couple mistakes by the Stags to jump out to
a 16-12 lead. The Hilltoppers kept their marginal lead after a nice
kill from Skylar Hayes, who surprised everyone by hitting it from
With the lead 19-15 in favor of Mount Pulaski, the Stags started to
make a run for it. Anna Hayes was too much for the Hilltoppers at
this point. First with a kill, then with a couple powerful serves
that were too much for her friend and Illini Elite volleyball club
teammate, Fitzpatrick, to handle. This tied the score at 19-19 and
the crowd was loving every minute of it.
So much passion for volleyball exists between these two teams.
Skylar Hayes then got the kill for Mount Pulaski that gave the
purple and gold the lead. The Hilltoppers padded the lead when lefty
Beckers went cross-court on Hartem and slammed it down, just good.
With Mount Pulaski up 22-19 now, the Hilltoppers also got a key
block from Beckers and freshman Paige Stewart.
Anna Hayes for Hartem kept pace with Beckers though in the kill
category and she slammed one down to close the gap to 22-20. Beckers
took her turn on the next play and it was the home team up 23-20.
Mount Pulaski would continue to lead, 24-20, as Hartem just could
not get a play together.
In volleyball things can always change quickly. One missed serve for
Mount Pulaski led to a couple perfect serves by Hartem’s Lexi Barry
and then the icing on the cake for the orange and black was when a
couple Mount Pulaski defenders just watched the ball drop between
them and just like that it was a new ballgame, 24-24 the score.
The next point was worth fighting for as bodies were diving all over
the court after the ball and luckily for Hartem, Mount Pulaski just
barely hit the ball out of bounds. On the next serve by Hartem,
Barry aimed right for Beckers and the captain could not handle this
one. Her knees buckled and the ball dropped, leading Hartem to win
the first battle, 26-24.
Set two started with Hayes and Hayes exchanging kills. That would be
Skylar for Mount Pulaski first and then Anna for Hartem. The two
teams were neck and neck in this one to start out, but Mount Pulaski
pulled away 12-6 at one point after Hartem committed a couple costly
Hartem was able to edge closer, only trailing 14-11 after a block by
Zinser and Shyanne Conrady.
A Beckers kill allowed the Hilltoppers to keep a lead and then
Stewart came up big with a block all by herself on Hartem’s Anna
Hayes. This spectacular play caused the Mount Pulaski student
section to chant, “She’s a freshman.” That’s always a fun moment.
With Mount Pulaski leading 18-11, Hartem Head Coach Jennifer Hayes
called timeout. Her team continued to play hard and never quit, but
Mount Pulaski certainly had more things clicking in the second set
than Hayes’ squad.
Beckers continued to play like she was on fire. She was diiving for
the ball, scurrying around the court to set the ball and had no
problem winding that left arm up for a kill on the assist from
freshman Isabella Wade. Before long it was a Beckers’ serve that
gave Mount Pulaski a 21-15 lead.
A kill by Fitzpatrick was good in the way, way back corner to add to
the lead, 22-16 the score.
Then it was super sophomore Morgan May with the kill from the middle
that made her smile a mile wide and give Mount Pulaski a comfortable
The Hilltoppers won set two as Anna Hayes bumped the ball out of
bounds and that ended things for Hartem.
Set three was something that the crowd could have seen coming from
the get-go. These two teams never go down without a fight, let alone
settle for duking it out in two sets. There always has to be a
Not aiming to be repetitive, but it was Hayes and Hayes putting the
boxing gloves on first and exchanging kills back and forth;
seriously: Anna - Skylar - Anna - Skylar. That last one, Skylar
Hayes really got on top of and slammed the ball down. Probably
deflated it a little bit, but in Mount Pulaski they don’t have any
“deflate-gate authorities”, so with the score 4-2 the play continues
Beckers got in on the action some more and her kill gave Mount
Pulaski a 7-3 lead. Mount Pulaski’s lead was shrinking though,
thanks to the brilliant play of Hartem. Hartem tied the set at 9-9
and when Skylar Hayes failed to return the serve, Hartem was on top
for the first time, 10-9.
Anna Hayes, who was a perfect textbook approach when it comes to a
swing if there ever was one, kept leading the way for Hartem and her
slam between two diving Mount Pulaski players gave Hartem an 11-10
edge. Back and forth went the battle, with each team getting called
for a couple illegal hits and an occasional silly mistake that
eventually saw the score rest at 17-14, in favor of Hartem.
[to top of second column]
Finally, Sami Perschall hit one so hard and fast for Hartem that it
literally froze Skylar Hayes and May in their tracks in the back
row. Hartem could celebrate an 18-14 lead but not for long.
The Hilltoppers were not about to give up either. Fitzpatrick found
the corner again for a kill that was out of reach for Hartem and
Mount Pulaski was on their way back. Beckers’ serving was
unreturnable, too, and that helped Mount Pulaski to edge closer,
19-18 the score, with the lead still in favor of Hartem.
Fitzpatrick’s nice shot down the baseline kept the pace for Mount
Pulaski. Finally, Mount Pulaski got a break when Anna Hayes hit the
ball out of bounds and the score was tied 20-20.
This next play though really made the Mount Pulaski crowd go nuts.
May and Alex Clemons blocked Anna Hayes to give the Hilltoppers a
21-20 lead. But a push called on Beckers and a bad pass by
Fitzpatrick made the tide turn the way of the Stags, 22-21 the
But not for long. A double hit called on the Stags tied the score at
22-22. Then the Mount Pulaski defense came up large and in charge
with a block by Skylar Hayes and Stewart. A huge play in the game
for sure as Mount Pulaski took a late lead, 23-22.
Next Skylar Hayes snuck the ball just up and over the Hartem defense
and lucky for the Hilltoppers, in bounds. Mount Pulaski was up 24-22
with May serving.
Anna Hayes would hit the ball long in the final play of the game and
that was the end. A lot of sweat, no tears, but a little blood on
the floor as Mount Pulaski could boast a Homecoming victory, The
final score in set three was 25-22.
After the victory, Mount Pulaski’s Donna Dulle looked exhausted, and
she never played a minute of the game.
With sweat pouring, the gym was so hot, Coach Dulle said, “That was
a good game. They have tremendous fundamentals, Hartsburg. But I
think we stopped Anna Hayes a little bit at the end. Our middle
blockers went over and closed. It was fun. It was fun for
Homecoming. As long as the kids are playing well, it’s a success.”
Talking about Beckers, Dulle said, "She played really well and
Skylar had some nice swings, too. All around we missed some key
serves. But we were playing aggressive and that’s good.”
One of the Mount Pulaski players in particular who plays aggressive
is Fitzpatrick, and her effort Thursday night was phenomenal. The
sophomore came up big with 4 kills, 32 digs and 2 aces.
Fitzpatrick, too, stepped it up for Homecoming Night, as she wanted
to get the win for the upperclassmen. “I obviously haven’t been in
high school whenever they were playing them here on Homecoming
night. Last year they beat us at their school on Homecoming Night
and that was a terrible feeling because I knew that the
upperclassmen wanted to beat them really bad.”
Referring to this year’s win in Mount Pulaski, Fitzpatrick feels
relieved to see everyone in the purple and gold crowd so happy.
"They're (upperclassman) not let down now, everybody’s happy and
it’s just a good day.
Fitzpatrick also got the chance to catch up with her Illini Elite
club volleyball teammate, Anna Hayes, as the gym emptied Thursday
night. It’s evident both young volleyball players have nothing but
respect for each other. "Anna’s a really good hitter. She’s crazy
good,” smiled Fitzpatrick.
Meanwhile, Anna Hayes has potential that is just off the charts and
took the “you came out of the womb hitting a volleyball" teasing
very good-naturedly. For those who do not know, Anna and her twin
brother, Austin, were born during the state volleyball tournament in
2001. “Yes, we were playing Mount Pulaski and Mom (Coach Jennifer
Hayes) had to leave the game to have us, so I’ve been part of
volleyball my whole life,” she explained.
When asked if she was aiming for Fitzpatrick out there on the court,
she immediately laughed and said, "No, I try to keep it away from
her because she’s our libero and she’s amazing.”
Anna Hayes concluded the night for Hartem with 17 kills, 10 digs, 8
service points and 4 aces.
After the game, Coach Hayes smiled at the compliments bestowed her
daughter and then immediately turned her attention to the game
notes. "It was a crazy atmosphere,” she said. "Obviously it’s their
homecoming and it’s a rivalry from the get-go. I thought both teams
played well. You can tell we’re both young. We both had great
moments and we both had not so pretty moments. At the end it really
was point for point and it could have been anybody’s ballgame. It
just fell their way and there’s nothing you can do about that. I
don’t think either team quit playing. Nobody gave up. Nobody quit
and I think it was a fight until the end and that’s the way it
should be,” said the Hartem coach.
Hartem did take the Junior Varsity contest 25-17 and 25-23 over
Mount Pulaski stats
Kenzie Lock 10 digs
Abigail Fitzpatrick 4 kills, 32 digs, 2 aces
Alex Clemons 2 digs, 1 block
Taylor Trimmer 1 dig
Alexandra Beckers 12 kills, 12 assists, 12 digs, 2 aces
Morgan May 2 kills, 7 digs, 1 block
Paige Stewart 1 kill, 2 blocks
Skylar Hayes 15 kills, 19 digs, 1 block
Isabella Wade 15 kills, 5 digs
Anna Hayes 8 points, 4 aces, 10 digs, 17 kills
Shyanne Conrady 4 blocks
Lexi Barry 3 aces, 5 points, 3 kills, 2 blocks
In Homecoming News:
Gabby Henson was crowned Homecoming Queen and Lukas Aylesworth was
crowned Homecoming King
The Court consisted of seniors: Alyssa Barger and Eli Griesheim,
Kaity Jason and Zack Drake, Skye Kretzinger and Eli Olson
Juniors: Abby Howard and Hank Hamilton
Sophomores: Lorenne Wilham and Darren Jacob
Freshmen: Olivia Cooper and Kaden Mott