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Friday, Sept. 12

That's Normal

Lady Railer volleyball team
remains undefeated
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By Rick Hobler

[SEPT. 12, 2003]  Universal Volleyball Rule 1: When any volleyball team from Normal steps on the same court with the Lincoln Lady Railers, you can expect to see a battle.

Last night's match was no exception.

In its second match of the week against invaders from the near north, the Lincoln Lady Railers defeated the Normal West Wildcats by a match score of 25-21, 25-23. Normal West, coming off a tough three-game match loss to Jacksonville on Tuesday night was ready to conquer at least one Central State Eight team this week. The Railers had different plans for their week.

Game 1 of the match was a battle from start to finish. Game 2 of the match was not nearly as close as the score reflects. The battle raged all night between the entire LCHS front line and primarily the tough play of Normal's senior outside hitters, Monica Renfrow and Jessica Dodge. In the end the Railers' numerous weapons tamed the Wildcats for good. The Railers improve to 4-0 while the Wildcats drop to 1-3.

Game 1 of the match was up for grabs the entire time, with seven tie scores and not more than a few points separating each team throughout. The Railer front line, especially Michelle McFadden and Samantha Conrady, killed all the Wildcats' nine lives with their powerful hitting. Megan Hoffert and McFadden also administered several facials to their opponents, as they successfully blocked Normal's attempts to kill. The Lady Railers did find themselves down, once at 7-11 and also at 17-20, but never gave in or gave up. At 17-20 the Railer front line took over, and after three quick kills from McFadden, a kill from Conrady and a block from Hoffert and McFadden, the home team had 25 while Normal could manage only 22. Game 1 was history.

The battle of Game 1 seemed to take most of the fight out of the Wildcats for Game 2 -- that is, except at the very end. The Lady Railers cruised along at the beginning of Game 2 and never trailed at any point. The Railers did have a "too close for fan comfort" midgame lapse -- again mostly caused by the persistent play of Normal's Monica Renfrow. With the Railers leading 21-14, Renfrow first dinked a ball onto the Railer side of the floor and then reeled off six service points, and the score stood at 21-21. Kendall Paulus stopped the run with a dink of her own to put LCHS up 22-21, and a Megan Hoffert soft touch put the finishing touch on the match as the Railers won 25-23.


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In reflecting on the match my observations were as follows: Michelle McFadden was unstoppable, especially on the quick set (nine kills, four blocks and five digs). After going to Michelle for much of Game 1, the Railers failed to go to her enough in Game 2. The emotion and "attitude" of Brooklyn Robbins were crucial to the victory in both games, especially when Game 2 seemed to be slipping away.

Coach Howe can easily rotate numerous players (Conrady, McFadden, Fults, Hoffert, Paulus, Boyer and others yet to be seen) through the front row without losing any ability to put the ball down with authority. Excellent blocking skills by Hoffert, McFadden and others made the difference against strong outside hitters like Renfrow and Jessica Dodge from Normal.

The Railer serving, especially that of Katie Green and Maria Benitez, while not crushing opponents, is certainly good and consistent -- which, with rally scoring, is what is preferred over anything else.

It once again took the entire Railer rotation of players to make the victory happen. The Railers seemed to once again have more physical stamina and more of a will to win than their opponent.

The Railers are good -- and it's early. They can be great.

Here are the notable varsity numbers for the entire match: kills -- McFadden 9, Conrady 4; blocks -- McFadden 4, Hoffert 3; assists -- Robbins 21; service points -- Green 11, Benitez 10; digs -- Robbins and Benitez 6 each and McFadden 5.

In junior varsity action LCHS showed its determination and desire as it came from behind to also defeat Normal West, by scores of 21-25, 27-25 and 25-12. The JV squad, under the excellent direction of coach Conrady, dug several major holes for themselves and then, when the chips were down, played their hearts out to win. The junior varsity also remains undefeated in match play.

The Lady Railers hit the road beginning this weekend to play in the always-challenging St. Francis Borgia Tournament and then the next weekend in the East Peoria Tournament. The Lady Railers return home to play a Monday night match against Mount Zion on Sept. 22 and then begin their begin CS8 play at home, against Taylorville, on Tuesday, Sept. 23.


[Rick Hobler]

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