STREATOR – This season the Streator volleyball team has managed to avoid the second- and third-set letdowns that have led to so many tough-to-figure losses over the past few years.
Not Tuesday, however.
The Bulldog Spikers dominated Herscher in the opening set, lost a mid-set lead in the second and trailed much of the way in the decisive third set of an eventual 13-25, 25-22, 25-17, Illinois Central Eight Conference loss at Pops Dale Gymnasium.
“We went away from doing what we were doing. We were second-guessing everything, and we were a step slow on defense not trusting ourselves like we had been earlier in the season, knowing that our teammate is going to be in that hole,” Streator coach Julie Gabehart said. “A lot of reaching, a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes for us.
“Herscher got more aggressive as the match went on, and we got more timid. That’s one of the things that happens when you send freeballs and tips to the other team. They can easily get it to the setter, and then they can run their offense, and that’s what we were giving [Herscher] tonight, easy transitions.”
Streator (8-12-1 overall, 3-3 ICE) completely owned the early-going, scoring the night’s first point on an Emma Rambo kill of a Herscher overpass and never trailing from there the entirety of the first set. A Rilee Talty service run and frequent peppering of second-shot shoots by Rambo allowed the Bulldog Spikers’ advantage to reach as many as a dozen points by the time Ellie Isermann’s serve was not returned for set point.
Streator seemed to be doing just fine in the second set too ... until that is, a five-point service run from hard-hitting junior Kennedi Huston – including two aces – tied things at 16-16. The hosts briefly regained the lead on a Huston service error and a block by Streator’s Bella Dean, but after a 20-20 tie Herscher took control, winning five of the last seven rallies to force a rubber game.
The Tigers (6-12 overall, 2-4 ICE) and Bulldog Spikers were tied 6-6 in that third set when Streator took what would prove to be its final lead of the night on an Isermann ace serve. After a sideout, Herscher’s Elise Kukuck served up four straight points – three of those on aces – and the Tigers led from there until the end, another Kukuck ace ending the proceedings.
Huston was the most dangerous hitter on the floor, finishing with a match-high 10 kills for Herscher. Hailey King added six, while Isabella Mendell put down four plus one and a half blocks as the Tigers overcame 11 service errors and a stream of unforced hitting errors.
“That’s why we’re 6-12,” Herscher coach Joel Huizenga said. “We just get in our head an awful lot, and how we looked that first game is how we’ve looked a lot of the season. Then we made a few little adjustments.
“We had a good weekend, played some really good teams [in Bradley-Bourbonnais] and did some things that made us realize, hey, we’re a pretty good volleyball team if we want to be a good volleyball team.”
Rambo put together a nice all-around night for Streator with eight assists, six kills – most of those six on shoots and pushes – and five digs. Talty gathered up 23 digs and served two aces for the Bulldog Spikers, Alexa Jacobs put down three stuff blocks to go with three kills, and other Streator leaders included Bella Dean (four kills, six digs), Sophia Pence (three kills, seven digs) and Isermann (three kills, four assists).
Streator plays Reed-Custer on Thursday.