It had been eight years since the last time Litchfield had beaten Hillsboro in volleyball, but that didn’t mean all of their previous meetings were blowouts.
Over the Toppers’ 14-game win streak against the Panthers, there had been several close three set matches, with highs and lows for both teams.
The most recent meeting between the two rivals was definitely one of the highs for Litchfield as they snapped their skid with a 25-16, 25-21 victory over the Toppers on Sept. 2, in Litchfield.
“This is the payoff for all the hard work that they’ve put in this year and last year,” Litchfield Coach Abby Carlson.
The match started as you would expect it to, a back-and-forth battle that resulted in the two teams being tied at 7-7. Hillsboro went on a three-point run after kills by Adyson McCammack and Alayna McCario and a Litchfield hit into the net, but then rebounded with a four-point swing of their own started by kills from Blair Johnson and Carlee Harmon.
The lead continued to volley back-and-forth, with the score tied at 11-11 and 12-12, but Litchfield went on a five point run to take a commanding 17-12 advantage.
Hillsboro cut the lead to three at one point, but never got any closer as Kendall Stewart served up four straight points, including an ace, to sew up the game for the Panthers.
The game looked destined for a third set in the early going of game two as Hillsboro took a 5-1 lead and led for much of the first half. Litchfield climbed back into the contest, though, working to tie the game at 13-13.
Only a point or two would separate the two rivals for much of the rest of the game, with Hillsboro taking an 18-16 lead, only to have the Panthers rally back to go up 21-19 on a kill by Annika Rhodes.
A hit out of bounds gave Hillsboro another point, but a lift and an ace by Emma Walch upped the Litchfield lead to 23-20. The Toppers had new life after a serve into the net, but a block by Stewart and a lift call ended the game with the Panthers on top.
Walch led the team in service points with eight, including two aces, while Blair Johnson also had six points and a pair of aces. Hillsboro got three service points each from Layne Rupert, Alayna McCario and Kenadie Carlock, with four aces on the night, one each from Rupert, Abbigail Schreiber, Kinley Richardson and Sophia Blankenship.
On the attack, Johnson had eight kills and Rhodes had four kills, with Walch setting up 10 kills to lead the team in assists. Richardson led Hillsboro with five assists, while Rupert had five kills and Blankenship and McCario had two each.
Defensively, Litchfield had seven blocks, with Stewart (three) and Harmon (two) leading the way. Brakenhoff and Johnson also had blocks, with Johnson leading the team in digs with five.
Hillsboro had two blocks from Blankenship and one from Emilee Roemelin, while Isabella White led the team in digs with 10.
The two teams will meet again on Oct. 21, in the conference bout, but they each have other fish to fry this week. Litchfield played Pawnee on Sept. 6, and takes on Southwestern at home on Sept. 9, while Hillsboro is at home on Sept. 7, against Marquette, followed by a road trip to Pana on Sept. 9.
Both teams will also play in the Grace-Filled Tourney on Sept. 10-11, which will be hosted by Hillsboro and Lincolnwood this year.
September 2 at Litchfield
Hillsboro 16 21
Litchfield 25 25
Service Points: Emma Walch 8, Blair Johnson 6, Kendall Stewart 5, Taylor Brakenhoff 4, Carlee Harmon 2, Annika Rhodes 1. Aces: Emma Walch 2, Blair Johnson 2, Carlee Harmon 1, Annika Rhodes 1, Kendall Stewart 1. Kills: Blair Johnson 8, Annika Rhodes 4, Carlee Harmon 2, Taylor Brakenhoff 1, Emma Walch 1. Assists: Emma Walch 10, Blair Johnson 2, Amy Frerichs 1, Ashley Hickerson 1. Blocks: Kendall Stewart 3, Carlee Harmon 2, Blair Johnson 1, Taylor Brakenhoff 1. Digs: Blair Johnson 5, Annika Rhodes 2, Kendall Stewart 2, Emma Walch 1, Taylor Brakenhoff 1.
Service Points: Layne Rupert 3, Alayna McCario 3, Kenadie Carlock 3, Abbigail Schreiber 2, Kinley Richardson 2, Sophia Blankenship 2. Aces: Layne Rupert 1, Abbigail Schreiber 1, Kinley Richardson 1, Sophia Blankenship 1. Kills: Layne Rupert 5, Sophia Blankenship 2, Alayna McCario 2, Adyson McCammack 1, Emilee Roemelin 1. Assists: Kinley Richardson 5, Emilee Roemelin 3, Isabella White 1, Sophia Blankenship 1. Blocks: Sophia Blankenship 2, Emilee Roemelin 1. Digs: Isabella White 10, Layne Rupert 5, Abbigail Schreiber 2.
Records: Hillsboro (1-2); Litchfield (1-2).