Carlinville starts strong, but falters down the stretch in Hillsboro

Carlinville starts strong, but falters down the stretch

Volleyball Cavies fall to 3-4 in

South Central

Conference play

By Jackson Wilson

Despite 31 assists and two service aces from Sarah DeNeve, the Carlinville volleyball Cavaliers let a conference win slip through their fingers in Hillsboro (25-16, 18-25, 18-25) on Thursday night. Hillsboro improved to 15-12 overall and 2-5 in the conference with the win. Carlinville fell to 16-12 overall and 3-4 in the conference with the loss.

“Carlinville is a great opponent. They’re always strong and they are very well coached. I really feel that this was almost like winning a regional to us,” said Hillsboro head coach Emily Zimmerman.

At the start, it looked to be Carlinville’s night. The Cavaliers struck first in the opening set and were able to maintain the lead from start to finish. Service aces by Sarah DeNeve and Gracie Reels gave Carlinville instant momentum in the opening stretch, 6-2. An early 9-4 Carlinville surge forced Hillsboro to call the game’s first timeout. The Hiltoppers cut the lead to 11-8, but a costly service error swung the momentum back in the Cavaliers’ favor. Carlinville put together another solid 6-2 run that was capped off by a second service ace from Gracie Reels. The Cavaliers had a stranglehold on the match’s opening set, 17-10. With a 19-14 lead late, the Carlinville defense flexed its muscle at the net. The Cavaliers denied the Hiltoppers on back-to-back kill attempts to retake a seven point lead, 21-14. Hillsboro responded with two redemption points, but a 4-0 service run by Carlinville’s Sydney Bowman put the set in the books, 25-16. Lexi Egelhoff ignited and finished the final run with kills for the Cavies. Carlinville was in the driver’s seat heading into set two.

The Hiltoppers came into the second set a completely different team. An ace by Haley Major on the opening serve set the tone for a momentum shift. After trailing for the entire first set, the Toppers had a 6-3 lead on the visiting Cavaliers. Carlinville rallied for a 9-8 lead, but Hillsboro responded with a major run of their own. A game-tying kill by Kayli Ward ignited a massive service streak for Haley Major. Ward contributed to the Hiltopper rally in a big way, posting 10 kills and 12 digs in the match. After four unanswered points, Carlinville tried to put out the fire with a timeout. It was an unsuccessful effort.  By the time Egelhoff had ended the scoring drought with a kill, the Hiltoppers had built a 15-10 lead. The Cavalier offense continued to struggle. Trailing 19-11, Carlinville head coach Kaitie Hammann was forced to call another timeout. This time, the Cavaliers were able to show some signs of life with big kills from Adrianne Welte and Jill Stayton. With the lead trimmed to 19-14, Zimmerman called a quick timeout and stopped the bleeding. The Hiltoppers regained control and held off the Cavaliers 25-18 to even the match at one set apiece.

The third set was a tug-of-war, with both teams trading slim leads at the start. With her team trailing 11-10, Hillsboro freshman Kaci Papin ignited her teammates and amped up the home crowd’s energy with two incredible blocks at the net. Papin finished with six kills and four huge blocks on the night.

“Kaci has really been amazing for us this year – a spark that we were missing. She’s really grown and improved in just two months,” Zimmermann said. “She’s got a lot of raw talent. Even in intense situations she’s able to step up and do a really great job for us.”

A 7-2 run put the Hiltoppers in the driver’s seat, 17-13. Egelhoff picked up two big points out of a Carlinville timeout, but Ward shut down the rally with another clutch kill. Another service run by Major pulled Hillsboro to within striking distance of the finish line, 21-15. Carlinville took one last timeout in hopes of pulling off a miracle comeback, but the writing was already on the wall. The Hiltoppers maintained their six point lead and Emma Miller capped off the 25-18 victory with a kill on match point.

Carlinville will  return home for the senior night regular season finale against Litchfield on Thursday.

Freshman hitter Jill Stayton goes up for a kill against the Miners. The Lady Cavaliers wore pink in support of Volley for the Cure as they played host to the Miners of Gillespie on Oct. 9. The Cavies won the match in two games 25-12, 25-19. Photo by Jan Dona.