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Friday, Oct. 24

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Lady Railers are the undefeated CS8 champions!

By Rick Hobler

[OCT. 24, 2003]  Hoo-rah! Hoo-rah! Let me say it again: Hoo-rah! The Lincoln Community High School Lady Railers have, for the first time in the history of the CS8 conference, been crowned its champions! In a tough three-game match last night at Springfield High, LCHS defeated the Senators 25-27, 25-22 and 25-17. The win places the Railers at a perfect 7-0 in conference play and gives them the outright conference title.

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 bad news.

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.


[Rick Hobler]

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