ROCHELLE — The scene was set for the Rochelle volleyball team to have a storybook ending during the IHSA 3A Regional Championship against No. 1 seed Belvidere North on Thursday.
The fourth-seeded Lady Hubs held early leads in both sets during the match, and the girls capitalized on service errors and poor passing from the Blue Thunder to keep the pressure on the top seed. But the Rochelle back row had a tough time combating some big swingers on the Belvidere North side of the floor, and the Blue Thunder rallied during each set to claim the title with a 25-22, 25-18 win over the Lady Hubs, who finished the season 21-16 overall.
“We’re walking out of the gym with our heads held high,” head coach Molly Sly said. “We played a very good team and we gave them a very good match. We were in control of each set until about the 15th point, but they had some servers who brought the heat and they found ways around our blocks.”
With students and home fans behind them, the Lady Hubs tipped off the match on a 5-1 run to seize early momentum from the Blue Thunder. Rochelle led by as much as 12-8 before Belvidere North tallied three consecutive points to ignite a 12-5 scoring spree that put the Blue Thunder ahead 20-17. The Lady Hubs evened the match at 20-20, but a serve into the net allowed Belvidere North to score and escape the opening set on a 5-2 run.
“I thought our starts showed how much our girls wanted the match and how much skill we have,” Sly said. “The seniors were great leaders and they led by example. They came into the gym ready to go every day. They wanted and fought for every point. It’s really exciting for our younger girls to see that, especially when we’re trying to build a winning program.”
Sophomore Sylvia Hasz opened the second set on the serve as Rochelle scored the first three points to once again claim the early advantage. The Blue Thunder saw several 50-50 balls roll their way, however, as two Belvidere North serves resulted in points after softly spinning over the net. Some tough digs from the Lady Hubs kept plays alive, but miscommunications on free balls from Belvidere North prevented Rochelle from making a serious comeback.
Hasz led the Lady Hubs with six digs, five kills, two aces and one block in the match. Seniors Katie Van Hise and Maggie Duval combined for seven kills, while junior Ellie Kinn totaled six digs and Duval added four digs. Junior Clare Green finished with eight assists and junior Afi Gati had two blocks.