Hillsboro Evens Season Series With Litchfield

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In September, the Litchfield volleyball team snapped a 14-game losing streak against Hillsboro with a straight set victory over the Toppers at Simmons Gym.

That was a non-conference meeting between the two clubs, meaning that Hillsboro had round two circled when the two teams were scheduled to meet in October on the Toppers’ home court. Things changed slightly after Hillsboro’s mask policy changed, meaning the Panthers would host their rivals in the regular season finale on Oct. 20, just five days before the two teams met again in the opening round of the Carlinville Regional Tournament.

Even though it was just a regional prequel, the game had a playoff atmosphere to it as the Toppers came back from a 25-13 first set loss to beat the Panthers 26-24, 25-23 and even the series at 1-1.

Despite the lopsided final score of the opening set, Hillsboro was actually well ahead of the Panthers in the early going. The Toppers strung together three straight points to take an 8-3 lead, before the wheels began to fall off.

Coach Abby Carlson’s club clawed their way back to tie the game at 8-8, then pulled ahead for their first lead of the game with three more points.

The two teams would trade points, but Litchfield went on a seven-point run to put the opening set away, turning a 12-11 advantage into a 19-11 lead. Hillsboro would get two more points, but that was it as Litchfield won the opener by 12.

Game two would be a back-and-forth affair, with Litchfield holding the lead for much of the game, if only by one or two points. Hillsboro’s first lead came at 7-6, but Litchfield answered with a 7-2 run that gave them their largest lead of the game at four points.

The Panthers would continue to lead as the game went on, but Hillsboro kept it close, never getting any further than four points away.

With the score at 23-20 late in the game, Hillsboro made its move, scoring three straight points to tie the contest and force a timeout. Litchfield and Hillsboro would trade the next two points, but the Panthers were called for an illegal hit, then a spike went out of bounds to give the Toppers a 26-24 win.

Game three would be another tight one, with Hillsboro leading by as many as four and Litchfield leading by as many as three. The Toppers’ biggest lead came at 14-10, but Litchfield rallied back to tie the game 14-14. 

The score would be tied six more times in the next 10 serving rotations, before Litchfield went on a small run to build up a 22-19 lead and force a timeout by Hillsboro Coach Emily Zimmerman.

The regrouped Toppers shrunk the Litchfield lead again, tying the game at 22, before Annika Rhodes snuck a kill inside the Topper block to make it 23-22.

Sophomore Sophia Blankenship would come up big in the final minutes for Hillsboro though, putting down a free ball kill to tie the game at 23-23, then blocking a Litchfield hit two points later for the 25-23 game winner.

The Hillsboro victory spoiled a 17-kill performance by Litchfield’s Blair Johnson, with Rhodes adding five kills and Carlee Harmon chipping in four. Emma Walch handled setting duties for the Panthers with 21 assists.

Defensively, Amy Frerichs led Litchfield with 17 digs, while Rhodes had 14 and Johnson added nine. The Panthers also had 10 blocks, with Harmon and Kendall Stewart each assisting on five blocks, while Taylor Brakenhoff had three assists and a solo stuff.

With the season series knotted at one apiece, the third round of the 2021 version of the rivalry will have a lot more weight. Litchfield and Hillsboro will play at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 25, at Carlinville, with the winner able to extend their season to the regional semifinals against Alton Marquette on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 5:30 p.m.

October 20 at Litchfield

Litchfield 25 24 23

Hillsboro 13 26 25

Litchfield Statistics

Aces: Emma Walch 1, Kendall Stewart 1, Carlee Harmon 1, Taylor Brakenhoff 1. Kills: Blair Johnson 17, Annika Rhodes 5, Carlee Harmon 4, Taylor Brakenhoff 2, Kendall Stewart 1. Assists: Emma Walch 21, Amy Frerichs 2. Digs: Amy Frerichs 17, Annika Rhodes 14, Blair Johnson 9, Emma Walch 7, Kendall Stewart 3, Carlee Harmon 3. Blocks (Solo/Assists): Carlee Harmon 0/5, Kendall Stewart 0/5, Taylor Brakenhoff 1/3, Emma Walch 0/2, Blair Johnson 1/0.

Hillsboro Statistics

Service Points: Kinley Richardson 9, Kenadie Carlock 7, Kaci Papin 5, Layne Rupert 3, Sophia Blankenship 3, Abbigail Schreiber 2. Aces: Kenadie Carlock 3, Kinley Richardson 1, Kaci Papin 1. Kills: Alayna McCario 4, Tatum Christian 4, Kaci Papin 3, Layne Rupert 3, Sophia Blankenship 3, Adyson McCammack 1. Assists: Kinley Richardson 13. Digs: Layne Rupert 13, Isabella White 11, Kinley Richardson 9, Abbigail Schreiber 4, Kenadie Carlock 4, Sophia Blankenship 3, Kaci Papin 2, Alayna McCario 1. Blocks: Kaci Papin 2, Sophia Blankenship 2, Alayna McCario 1.

Records: Litchfield (11-12, 4-4); Hillsboro (10-17, 1-5).

Class 2A Volleyball 

Carlinville Regional

Monday, October 25

Match 1 at 5:30 p.m. - (8) Litchfield vs. (9) Hillsboro

Match 2 at 6:30 p.m. - (5) Carlinville vs. (11) Gillespie

Tuesday, October 26

Match 3 at 5:30 p.m. - (2) Alton Marquette vs. Winner Match 1

Match 4 at 6:30 p.m. - (3) Pana vs. Winner Match 2

Thursday, October 28

Match 5 at 6 p.m. - Winner Match 3 vs. Winner Match 4

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