This week those "few" are the Lincoln
Lady Railers volleyball team and their excellent coaches. The few
include the Railers' talented seniors, Samantha Conrady and Ali
Hower. Not since the Central State Eight Conference was formed 11
years ago has a volleyball team or a coach from Lincoln won the
conference championship. And the conference dry spell goes back even
further than that. In fact, not since the 1990-91 volleyball squad
won the Big 12 conference championship under coach Jo Veile has LCHS
been able to claim such a title.
Coming into this week the Lady Railers
had already conquered the CS8 perennial champions, Jacksonville and
Sacred Heart-Griffin. No small task, especially since the Railers
had to face Jacksonville in Jacksonville. Coming into this week the
Railers conference record stood at 5-0. Coming into this week two
final CS8 hurdles stood in the way of Railer history. As of 8:30
last night, with a Railer victory over Southeast, only one hurdle
still stands in the way of the Railers' first conference title --
the Senators of Springfield High School this Thursday night.
It was obviously hard last night for
the Railers not to look ahead in anticipation of Thursday night's
potential history-making match. Combine that with the usually strong
emotions that rightly come with Senior Night each year, and there
was certainly the potential for the Railers to look past tonight's
conference match with Southeast. They almost did.
In the first game of the match LCHS
struggled from the beginning and had to pull the match away from
Southeast at the end, when they trailed 24-25. As it's often said,
"It wasn't pretty." While it appeared that Southeast was clearly
outmatched in talent by the Railers, it was obvious as the game
began that Southeast didn't know that and had come to play.
In the first half of the match, the
Railers could do no better than to stay even with Southeast, as the
seven tie scores reflected. It was the net play of Kendall Paulus,
both killing and blocking, that kept the Lady Railers in the first
half of the match, as the second of her nine kills knotted the match
From that point forward the Railers
played from behind until a Michelle McFadden dink made it even at
21-21. Three successive Brooklyn Robbins serves looked to end it all
as the Railers pulled ahead 24-21.
Not so fast, said Southeast, as they
came roaring back to knot the score at 24 and 25.
An ace serve by Michelle McFadden
brought a collective sigh of relief from the fans and coaches alike
as LCHS won the first game 27-25.
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The second game wasn't much prettier.
Southeast seemed to have lost its fight for Game 2 and, absent
numerous Railer mental errors, the match would have been over much
sooner than it was. Senior starter Samantha Conrady was excellent as
she garnered six of her match-high total of eight service points in
the Railer win. Michelle McFadden was both hitting and blocking
well. Maria Benitez was "digging it" on defense. LCHS had little
trouble building the point spread quickly to a commanding 20-13 lead
-- but finishing it was a different story.
The Railers even moved to the very
brink of victory with a 24-15 lead. Then Railer after Railer either
miss-hit or over-hit potentially match-ending balls, and suddenly it
was 24-16, -17, -18, -19. When Southeast rang up 20 points of their
own, Lincoln coach Howe called timeout. The home team apparently got
the message, and a deep, soft push to the back corner of the
Southeast side of the court by Brooklyn Robbins ended the match:
I'm going to chalk up last night's
performance as one of those ugly wins that every team endures at
some point during the year. I am so glad they have that out of the
way, since the road ahead is challenging. The conference title match
Thursday at Springfield, regionals at Mount Zion the next week and
potential rematches with Champaign Centennial and Normal Community
Now is the time, ladies. Now is the
time Railer fans -- where are you?
My unsolicited advice for Thursday --
DO NOT take Springfield lightly. Don't celebrate until you've won.
Don't think for a moment that any CS8 team is going to hand a
Lincoln team the conference title on a silver platter. You are going
to have to take it from them one point at a time. There is a time
for sharing -- but Thursday isn't one of those times.
Make some history! Be champions! You
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