The Railers became champions the
old-fashioned way (really the only way) -- they had to earn it.
And, just as predicted, it wasn't easy.
It was senior night at Springfield High
School, and the Senators played probably their best match of the
year before a large and loud contingent of SHS fans. SHS played
above themselves and appeared determined to spoil the Railers'
celebration. As the match began, Lincoln appeared tense and
pressured by the weight of their "moment" in history. That was the
The good news was that the Railers were
ultimately more determined and in the end played better team
volleyball than SHS. The tense beginning ended in an intense ending.
The Railers also subtracted substantial time off their coaches' life
expectancies before they got it done. But make no mistake, these
ladies got it done!
The Railers gave Game 1 away. There is
no way to say it nicely. LCHS trailed only once for most of Game 1
-- when the score showed 6-7. The Railers led the rest of the way
until the roof caved in at the most peculiar time -- with the
Railers ahead 24-19 and so close they could taste the victory. Then
came 24-20, -21, -22, -23 and, well, you get it, 24-24. SHS senior
Alex Gibbs and her accurate jump serve gave the Railers fits
throughout the game. The Senators soon came away with Game 1 by a
final score of 27-25. But enough about that.
Game 2 was another battle to the end,
with long scoring runs in between by each team. In the end the
Railers held off the final SHS scoring run to even the games at one
each. For the Railers, Game 2 required every player on the floor to
step up. The front-line blocking was especially crucial on several
crucial volleys, as Kendall Paulus and Samantha Conrady sent SHS
kills right back at them. The back-row defense was also critical on
most every exchange. Michelle McFadden was awesome, as always, when
it came time to put an exclamation point in the Railer column. Both
Katie Green and Brooklyn Robbins came through at the service line.
SHS tried to "freeze" Katie twice during this game by calling
timeouts during her crucial serves. Katie wasn't bothered by these
breaks and got five of her service points in Game 2. Brooklyn
stepped up with three additional service points, including two aces.
The end of Game 2 looked eerily like
the end of Game 1, except with a different result. With the Railers
up 24-17, SHS had its last scoring run. At 24-21 coach Howe
interrupted play to give the Railers a brief reminder chat about
their Game 1 collapse. The Railers' hustle stopped the run after one
more SHS point, and the match was tied at one game each. Final
score: Railers 25, SHS 22.
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In the deciding Game 3 the Railers'
stamina and talent outlasted the senior night emotion of SHS. The
two teams traded points with each other until a series of crucial
moments in the match began with the Railers up 14-13. A McFadden
classic kill brought a side-out to the Railers and a 15-13
advantage. Then Marie Benitez rotated in to do her specialty work at
the service line. Her critical ace serve was the beginning of the
end for SHS. The Senators' excellent senior server Alexa Gibbs came
to the service line and, if SHS had any hopes of pulling off a win,
Brooklyn Robbins ended it, as she dinked the ball to the Springfield
side of the floor for a 17-14 Railer lead. Brooklyn then rotated to
the service line and knocked down an ace of her own -- Lincoln 18,
SHS 14. When another authoritative McFadden kill hit the floor,
Springfield called timeout, but it was too late. Some long volleys
raged for the next few minutes, but the Railers had won the war. A
kill by Megan Hoffert and the two remaining and final kills by
senior Samantha Conrady put an end to it.
The stats confirm the full-court battle
that went on last night. From the Railers' side of the floor they
looked like this: 13 team-high digs for Samantha Conrady and 10 more
for Michelle McFadden; 11 kills each for the same dynamic duo of
McFadden and Conrady, plus eight more by Kendall Paulus; six blocks
each for McFadden and Paulus, plus five more each for Conrady and
Megan Hoffert; 35 assists and 11 service points, including three
aces, for the tireless Brooklyn Robbins; eight service points for
Katie Green; and two critical aces for Maria Benitez. And while
Julie Fults and Melanie Boyer don't show up on the game-high stat
sheet, their team play was critical to the final outcome.
The Lady Railers were and are the
Central State Eight champions. Thanks to the Railers for a perfect
seven-game conference effort. Thanks to coaches Howe and Conrady for
their year-round efforts. Thanks to the Lincoln police and fire
departments for the "private parade" as the Railers returned home
late last night.
The Railers now enter the postseason
tournament and begin play next week at the Mount Zion Regional, with
their first match to be against Decatur Eisenhower at 6:30 p.m. on
Wednesday, Oct. 29. The winner advances to the regional final on
Saturday, Nov. 1, at 7 p.m. in Mount Zion.
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