ROCHELLE — Tuesday marked the start of the first IHSA 3A Regional volleyball tournament at Rochelle Township High School since 2010. The Lady Hubs reached the championship match when they last hosted, and the girls will be back in the finals this season after eliminating the Belvidere Bucs in the semifinal round.
No. 4 seed Rochelle controlled the first set before scoring 13 of the last 17 points in the second set to defeat No. 6 seed Belvidere 25-18, 25-18 and clinch its spot in the regional championship Thursday at 6 p.m. The Lady Hubs improved to 21-15 overall, and they’ll carry their four-match winning streak into the finals against No. 1 seed Belvidere North (33-3). A victory on Thursday would result in Rochelle’s first regional volleyball championship since 1995.
“It would be awesome if we can win a regional because we haven’t won one in so long,” senior Katie Van Hise said. “Thursday won’t be anything we can’t handle and I feel like we can hang with Belvidere North and get the win. We played really well tonight and our energy was really high. We met each challenge head-on.”
Both teams played a contested first set, splitting the first 20 points evenly before the Lady Hubs took control with service points and strong outside offense from Van Hise and sophomore Sylvia Hasz, who combined for 14 kills in the match. Back-to-back aces from junior Clare Green, who recorded a team-high three on Tuesday, gave Rochelle a 17-12 lead.
Senior Caitlin Hensley kept the Lady Hubs in front with a service point to make it a 20-14 match. Rochelle claimed the opening set after Belvidere deflected a shot from Van Hise out of play. The second set started in similar fashion as the first, with both teams tied 9-9 before Rochelle scored three straight points to force the Bucs to call timeout.
Belvidere gave itself its best chance to win after tallying five straight points to lead 14-12. But the Lady Hubs recovered nicely, tightening up their defense and running their offense through Green and senior Maggie Duval, who teamed up for 23 assists in the win. Rochelle rallied for a 6-1 run to take a 18-15 lead before closing the match with a 7-3 spurt after a Belvidere timeout.
“A home regional title would be fantastic,” head coach Molly Sly said. “It’s exciting to watch good volleyball and I think we’ll have a very good match on Thursday… Belvidere North can put up some good blocks and they run a quick offense. Their back row seems to move very well so I’m excited to see how we match up with them.”
Green led the Lady Hubs with eight digs on Tuesday, while junior Ellie Kinn added six digs and two players including Hensley and Duval recorded five digs. Senior Emma Smith blocked a team-high two shots in the victory.