Cavies win regional for 21st time under Struble
In danger of being forced to a third game of the regional championship match, the Carlinville volleyball team did not have much time left to gradually get back in game two against Hillsboro Thursday night.
The Cavies after dominating a 25-13 game one win were trailing 20-12 late in game number two. Not much time for dilly-dallying around.
But behind a 13-3 surge to finish game two, the Cavies had a comeback 25-23 victory to sweep the Hiltoppers and lay claim to their 21st regional championship, and fifth in the last six years.
The win puts Carlinville (22-13) in Tuesday’s Vandalia Sectional semifinal against Shelbyville (28-9), with the winner advancing to Thursday, Nov. 3 showdown at 6 p.m. for the sectional crown against either Pana or Newton.
“This is what the girls have been working so hard for,” Carlinville coach Fran Struble said. “I knew if they could play their ‘A’ game, they could do it. Hillsboro’s a tough team. I knew it would be tough to win it on their home court.”
Carlinville raced out to a 6-2 lead in game one and maintained a slight lead at 10-7 when Anna Chew put away a kill for a sideout.
Karley Dixon went back to serve, and by the time she had finished, the Cavaliers had an 18-7 lead after seven straight points.
The Toppers had a tough time staying out of the net on attacks by the Cavies, as several violations enabled Carlinville to build upon the lead. In fact, the Toppers six times in a 10-point stretch were called for illegal touching the net.
Alyssa DeSpain and Grace Zachary added ace serves and the Cavaliers prevailed 25-13.
It would be a different story in game two. After falling behind 3-1, the Hiltoppers scored five straight points, including four by Maddie Miller.
An 11-9 lead by Hillsboro grew to 16-9 after four points from Mackenzie Bellaver. Following a kill by Sami Moore, the deficit was 20-12.
A timeout followed, and so did the momentum. Chew’s kill for sideout ignited a late rally.
The Cavaliers still trailed 22-16 when Chew’s kill brought Dixon back to the service line.
Dixon delivered six straight points, including three kills by Zachary which featured a dink and a left-handed tap for kill. Lydia Albertine added a dink and Lynde Gibbs also had a kill during that run, which made it 23-22 Carlinville.
Hillsboro tied the game on a kill, but a block by Carlinville gave the Cavies match point.
Sydney Bates went back to serve. Her serve to the front row was unable to be returned, falling for an ace serve and a regional championship for the Cavaliers.
“We got behind in that second game, but they stayed focused which is my whole thing,” Struble said. “You have the skill to do it and I know you can do it, so just go out there and do what you do so well.”
Struble called it a typical team effort.
“In that first game we just dug everything – we were like a vacuum cleaner,” Struble said. “We have spent so many hours working on our defense. The second game, we lost that defense. Once we got that back into focus, they just kept coming back and coming back.”
Zachary recorded 19 kills on 40 attacks, and also had a block and ace serve.
“It feels pretty nice – it’s a win. We said we are not losing,” Zachary said. “And we kind of just went on with it, and we won. We all really wanted to win this.”
Chew finished with five kills and a block; Bates had two kills, a block, an ace, four points and 15 assists; Albertine had 15 assists, four points and an ace; Dixon finished with 13 points; Gibbs had three kills and an assist and Adriann Welte had a kill.
Dixon said communicating on the court was important in the win.
“Talking a lot – that has not been one of our strong suits, so just talking and staying excited about the game (was important),” Dixon said. “We were able to play pretty smart.”
Fellow senior Annie Rhodus also played a key role for this team.
“We came in here knowing we had a tough match,” Rhodus said. “We just wanted to push our hardest and that’s what we did. Our coaches call us the Cardiac Cavies because when we fall behind we’re able to get up.”
Rhodus said closing it out in two games was important.
“We would have fought for three but it was great that we were able to finish it in two,” Rhodus said.
Albertine, another senior, said she wanted the regional win as much as anyone.
“I wanted this really bad – I wanted to win,” Albertine said. “I feel like this was the game that we’ve been waiting for all season to have that comeback and to win was nice.”
Albertine said that communication and staying positive were key in coming back from an eight point deficit.