ROCHELLE — Payton Hale entered her junior season with the Rochelle Lady Hub varsity volleyball team as the starting middle blocker. Not only was she tasked with helping contain Sandwich outside hitter and UConn recruit Audrey Rome on Tuesday, but she also spent time in the back row, providing support for the Lady Hub defense and on serve receives.
Hale’s all-around efforts allowed Rochelle to rally from a first-set deficit, with the Lady Hubs winning over the Indians 19-25, 25-17, 25-17 and improving to 12-13 on the season. Hale finished with five kills and two blocks while adding 11 digs and nine service points for the Lady Hubs, who split the season series with Sandwich after falling to the Indians earlier this year.
“We definitely set up better blocks on the outside this time because we knew [Audrey] was really good,” Hale said. “We worked on playing better defense down the line and that really helped tonight. It’s definitely been a lot of fun spending more time in the back row. I like playing in the back row and it’s been nice getting experience playing a different position.”
Rochelle started strong in the second set, breaking off a 6-1 run with senior Sylvia Hasz sending multiple serves into the back corner of the Sandwich zone and creating defensive issues for the Indians. With Hale and the outside hitter Hasz, who finished with seven kills, 11 assists and eight digs, helping support the back row, Rochelle maintained a steady lead throughout the second set, eventually sealing the set on one of junior Addie Friestad’s six kills on Tuesday.
“We knew we had to get it together and clean up our act after that first set,” Hale said. “We knew we could beat them and we definitely came back and played a lot better after that.”
With Hale on the serve, Rochelle rallied for a 7-1 run to break a 7-7 tie in the third set and put the Indians out of reach. The Lady Hubs led Sandwich by as many as nine points before a tip from Friestad on the outside effectively clinched the win. Junior setter Isela Vasquez notched nine assists and six digs, while junior libero Cassandra Garcia totaled a team-high 19 digs.
“I know we can definitely come back over the second half of our conference schedule,” Hale said. “We’re in fifth now but I know we’re capable of beating all the teams we’ve played.”
The Rochelle Lady Hub varsity volleyball team competed in the Sterling Invitational on Saturday, finishing 1-3 over four matches. Rochelle conceded two losses against Bureau Valley (17-21, 21-23) and Sterling (14-21, 18-21) before scoring a 25-17, 25-15 win over Ashton-Franklin Center. The Lady Hubs fell 25-20, 22-25, 13-15 against Erie-Prophetstown in the finale.