STREATOR – It’s been a tough season for the Streator girls volleyball team.
The Bulldogs have fought admirably throughout multiple heartbreaking, three-set losses in addition to a slew of two-set defeats in which they’ve taken their opponents deep into extra points and came away tantalizingly close to victory.
Thursday evening at Pops Dale Gymnasium, Streator again suffered a familiar fate after being on the brink of a win in the first set only to come up on the short end of a 26-24, 25-15 loss to Illinois Central Eight Conference opponent Herscher. Upperclassmen Natalie Williams, Lydia Schultz, Abby Bedecker, Mallory Goerne and Hannah Rambo were honored on senior night.
“Our record might not show it in terms of wins, but this is a great group of girls I’ve had the privilege to coach.”— Streator volleyball coach Julie Gabehart
The Bulldogs (3-26, 0-13 ICE) fought back from a 21-15 deficit in the opening set to tie the score at 24 before dropping the final two points in disappointing fashion.
The Tigers (11-19, 7-5) then blasted out of the gate with a huge lead in the second set and never looked back, as the locals tried their best but couldn’t climb back into the match again.
“I think it’s been a frustrating season for all of the girls knowing that we’ve lost more two-point games than we’ve ever lost in recent years that I can remember,” SHS veteran coach Julie Gabehart said. “As always, I’m proud of the girls for coming out and putting up a battle in such a great way to help honor five great girls on their senior night.”
Goerne led the way for the Bulldogs with five kills, while Bedecker added seven points, two aces and four assists. Sophomores Rilee Talty (six points, ace, three digs) and Alexa Jacobs (three kills) also added to the Streator mix.
But in the end, the Bulldogs couldn’t contend with the hard-hitting Herscher sister duo of senior Emma Mendell, who pounded down 10 kills from the left side, and freshman Izzie Mendell, who added seven winners from the right.
Senior Allison Huizenga proved solid as well from the service line with 12 points and three aces, as the Tigers survived the early push from Streator despite a whooping 24 attack errors on the night including 15 during the all-important first set.
“Credit Streator for really putting us to the test in the first set on their senior night,” Herscher coach Joel Huizenga said. “We were our own worst enemy most of the time, not being able to put balls away when we had the chance to. Fortunately, we were able to get things together in the second set and close out a hard-fought victory.”
The Bulldogs grabbed an early 11-7 lead in set one after a middle kill at the net by sophomore Devin Elias. They led 13-10 after a left-side dagger from Rambo. But the Tigers embarked on an 11-2 rally from there to grab a 21-15 advantage before Streator countered with a 9-3 run of its own to tie the score at 24-24 after kills from Goerne and Elias.
However, winners off the hands of senior Ally Meyer and Izzie Mendell followed, as Herscher closed out the tense opener by a pair of tallies.
The second set saw the visitors surge to a 9-1 lead off the serving of Allison Huizenga, who recorded seven points and an ace during the Herscher uprising. From there Streator could get no closer than eight points after a left-side kill from Goerne, which cut the gap to 20-12, before Emma Mendell provided two more kills and a serving ace down the stretch to put away set two and ultimately the match.
“It was another tough loss for us tonight, and when I talk about our seniors, I get emotional,” Gabehart said. “They’ve all fought their hearts out all season, and it showed again as it did for the rest of our team.
“Our record might not show it in terms of wins, but this is a great group of girls I’ve had the privilege to coach.”