Volleyball: Morris survives three-set battle with Rochelle

Sophomore Dempsey Atkinson serves during the Rochelle Lady Hub varsity volleyball match against Morris on Wednesday. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Lady Hubs fall just short in 20-25, 25-20, 21-25 loss

ROCHELLE — The Interstate 8 Conference schedule has provided several tough matchups for the Rochelle Lady Hub varsity volleyball team this season. After Rochelle earned a hard-fought three-set win over LaSalle-Peru on Tuesday, the Lady Hubs returned home on Wednesday and again found themselves locked in a third-set tiebreaker battle, this time against the Morris Redskins.

Indicative of the fight they showed all match, the Lady Hubs scored four consecutive points with the Redskins one point away from winning the third set and claiming the match. In a match that featured several back-and-forth swings and only a few minor errors, Morris escaped as Rochelle’s late rally fell just short in a 20-25, 25-20, 21-25 loss. The Lady Hubs (9-8-3, 3-3 Interstate 8) will face Belvidere on the road in nonconference play on Monday at 6 p.m.

“They never stopped wanting it and that was really exciting to see,” head coach Molly Sly said. “Our senior leadership on the floor has been phenomenal… They’re all playing huge minutes for us this season and they’re performing the way that our seniors should be performing.”

Rochelle made some rotational adjustments before and during the match, with senior Casandra Garcia stepping up behind the service line and helping the Lady Hubs take a 7-3 lead early in the first set. Morris reclaimed the lead halfway through the set, using tough front-row defense to reflect multiple Rochelle kill attempts back at the Lady Hub offense. A pair of kills from junior Kennedy Adamski, who finished with five along with four blocks, cut the Redskin lead to 21-19.

“We switched up our rotation as we went along in the match,” Sly said. “Kennedy has been in the front row with Ali [Ohlinger] a lot and she draws a big block, which opens up our options on the outside. Kennedy put the ball away on the 31 set several times, which was phenomenal to see, and she has been giving us a lot of positive touches when she’s on the block.”

The second set was extremely competitive, with neither team taking a lead greater than three points for the majority of the set until a sequence of blocks from the Lady Hubs forced a Morris timeout with Rochelle ahead 17-12. A hitting error brought the Redskins within two points, but a trio of Morris errors as well as key kills from senior Payton Hale, who had seven along with seven digs in the match, allowed the Lady Hubs to extend the match to a third-set tiebreaker.

“Our front-row players support the back row so well with their touches on the block,” Sly said. “They’re working together really well and there were so many rallies this evening where the ball never reached our side of the floor and Morris needed three or four chances to get it over.”

Rochelle took a timeout early in the third set after Morris emerged with an 8-5 lead. The Lady Hubs made several quality swings on the ball, but middle blocker Hanna Lauterbach proved difficult to score on, with the 6-footer using her length and leaping ability to impact the match on both ends of the court. Trailing 24-17, Rochelle rallied off four straight points including a pair of kills from sophomore Alison Ohlinger, who finished with 23 assists, six kills and six digs.

Senior Addie Friestad and sophomore Taelynn Rodeghero each ended the match with five kills, while sophomore Dempsey Atkinson totaled 12 digs and senior Macy Ramos added two aces.