Volleyball: Sycamore survives third-set rally from Rochelle

The Rochelle Lady Hubs celebrate a point during Tuesday's Interstate 8 Conference match against Sycamore. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Lady Hubs fall just short in 25-22, 11-25, 20-25

ROCHELLE — A loud crowd was on hand as the Rochelle Lady Hub varsity volleyball team fought to the finish during Tuesday’s Interstate 8 Conference opener against Sycamore.

It seemed that the Spartans were well on their way to a dominant third-set win over the Lady Hubs. But with Sycamore holding a 15-6 lead midway through the set, Rochelle rallied for eight consecutive points with senior Alivia Henkel on the serve, eventually tying the match at 18-18 on an emphatic kill from junior Taelynn Rodeghero, who had 11 to lead the Lady Hub offense. 

Sycamore’s quick serving caught Rochelle off balance over the final few points, however, with the Spartans ultimately clinching the set with a 7-2 run and handing the Lady Hubs a 25-22, 11-25, 20-25 loss to start the Interstate 8 schedule. Junior Ali Ohlinger distributed 19 assists for the Lady Hubs (11-7, 0-1 Interstate 8), who will host LaSalle-Peru next Tuesday evening.

“I thought we took a lot of things out of this match from a mental standpoint,” head coach Molly Sly said. “There were some calls during the second set that didn’t go our way and took the momentum away from us and we weren’t able to move on from those. We have to learn how to bounce back and get the momentum back in our favor faster, which we did during the third set.”

Rochelle and Sycamore went point-for-point throughout most of the first set, with each team exchanging brief scoring runs before the Spartans managed to slip ahead with an 18-14 advantage late in the set. The Lady Hubs brought Sycamore within one point near the end of the first set, making the score 22-21 after aces from junior Sydney Carmichael and Henkel along with a crushing block from senior Kennedy Adamski, who had three in the match. 

“We were down by four or five points, but we regrouped and we put some balls away,” Sly said. “We had some really good touches at the net and Dempsey ran our back row really well and had some great digs. I thought that flipped the momentum and we took that and ran with it.”

Rochelle closed the set with four straight points, sealing the set with another strong block from Ohlinger to take a 1-0 match lead. The Lady Hubs fell behind and had minimal answers for the Spartans during the second set, however, with Sycamore successfully navigating around the Lady Hub blocks on the front line. The Spartans also utilized tips to their advantage, catching Rochelle’s defense off guard for multiple points to eventually even the match at 1-1.

Sycamore opened the third set on a 9-4 run and appeared primed for another easy set victory, but the Lady Hubs fought back as the home crowd grew louder inside the Rochelle Township High School gymnasium. The rally was sparked by a strong back-row defensive effort from multiple players including junior Dempsey Atkinson, who led the Lady Hubs with eight digs. Rodeghero totaled three blocks and Henkel added seven digs to aid the Rochelle defense.

“I told the girls that it’s always a roller coaster, but we can’t let our lows be as low as they were tonight,” Sly said. “We have to bounce back sooner and we have to get that momentum back in our favor, so hopefully the girls learn from that and the next time we see Sycamore, we’ll move right along from whatever call didn’t go our way or whatever play we weren’t happy with.”

Henkel and Atkinson each finished with three aces, while Ohlinger recorded six digs and junior Lauren Dyer totaled four kills. Junior Emma Kennay had four digs and sophomore Audyn Kemp had two blocks.