ROCHELLE — No varsity volleyball team in the history of Rochelle Township High School had won 20 matches prior to this season. As the Lady Hubs approached the record-setting mark during their finale against Plano on Thursday, the girls nearly saw their chance slip away.
Rochelle dominated the opening set before the Reapers took advantage of some miscues from the Lady Hubs to emerge in the second set leading 20-13. The purple and white were determined not to let the historic victory out of their sight, and behind strong service balls from seniors Maggie Duval and Caitlin Hensley, who combined for seven aces, Rochelle rallied to stun Plano with a 12-3 run to win 25-10, 25-23 and become the first 20-win team at RTHS.
“We really needed to forget about our mistakes and understand that every ball was a new play,” Duval said. “We’re all really excited because we’ve been playing together for so long. We’re excited to do something to represent our school and make our school proud. We wanted to make our coaches proud and we wanted to make ourselves proud.”
Service points proved critical throughout the match, as was evidence when Plano and Rochelle were tied 5-5 near the start of the first set. Duval took the ball and led a service rally resulting in a 9-0 run that put the Reapers out of contention for the remainder of the set. Duval said some mechanical changes have helped her become more consistent on service balls.
“I was really struggling with my timing, and so earlier in the season, my coaches told me to try serving the ball on the floor,” said Duval, who used to use a jump serve during her first two years with the varsity team. “Coach [Molly] Sly told me that I was too good to be missing my serves. I kept serving from the floor and since then, I’ve become more consistent.”
Thursday was the final regular season match for the Lady Hubs, who improved to 20-15 overall with the victory over Plano. Rochelle will host the IHSA 3A Regional next week, with the fourth-seeded Lady Hubs tipping off the semifinals against the sixth-seeded Belvidere Bucs. A regional championship would be Rochelle’s first since the 1995-96 school year.
“It would mean so much to us,” Duval said. “We’ve been working for this since our freshman year and even going back to our fifth-grade year. It would be great to win here with all of our friends and family members watching us.”
Senior Katie Van Hise led Rochelle with eight kills in the match, while junior Clare Green and sophomore Sylvia Hasz each added five kills. Green and Duval combined for 21 assists in the victory, with Hasz recording seven digs and senior Emma Smith totaling two kills and one block.