The Helias Lady Crusaders played their best volleyball of the night in the first and fourth sets Tuesday on the way to a four-set win against the Pleasant Hill Chicks, 25-17, 25-27, 25-23, 25-14 at Rackers Fieldhouse.
Helias (8-1) was ruthlessly efficient in forcing side outs in the first and last sets, allowing Pleasant Hill to win back-to-back rallies on serve once in each set, as the Lady Crusaders cruised on Senior Night.
Before the start of the varsity match, Helias' four seniors and team captains Cate Albertson, Grace Wilding, Ella Randolph and Lacey Heidbrink were honored. Albertson finished the match with 11 kills, second on the team, while Heidbrink had a team-high 17 digs. Wilding added seven kills and an ace and Randolph had 12 service points and four aces.
"They've played all four years so they've been around some good teams," Helias coach David Harris said of the senior class after the win. "Last year was a learning experience for all four of them, as they didn't have really any varsity experience and the seniors last year didn't have much varsity experience. This year they're the leaders, and they have shown a lot of dedication and commitment this summer, showed good work ethic, and just a good example for the underclassmen."
The Chicks took a 2-0 lead in the first set on a net violation and an ace, but with a tie at 4, sophomore outside hitter Chapel Dobbs set the tone for the remainder of the set. She recorded three consecutive kills to get her team the serve back, at 5-4, 6-5 and 7-6, and a 4-0 run bookended by a Jacie Buschjost kill gave the Lady Crusaders the lead for good.
Dobbs had eight of her team-high 14 kills in the first set, and Helias had just one hitting error.
"Yeah, she came out strong, but the whole team came out really strong," Harris said. "And then we talk about it in between sets, they're a really good team. They don't like losing, so they're going to come out and play better, and they did. So we have to play better, too, and we didn't do that."
Pleasant Hill, which scored first in all four sets, began the second set with another 2-0 lead. Wilding got Helias on the board, but the Chicks' Tera Reberry, took over, setting off a 3-0 run with a block, a kill and another block. A tip over the net put the visitors ahead 8-2 and forced a Helias timeout.
The Lady Crusaders closed the gap to two points, at 10-8 on a Randolph ace and an Albertson kill, but couldn't get closer. Someone from Pleasant Hill, usually Reberry, found an answer to end Helias' attempts at a run. A Reberry kill made it 23-18 Chicks, but a service error, then back-to-back kills by Dobbs and Wilding, made it 23-21 and forced a Pleasant Hill timeout.
Sydney Mingucci, who finished with 10 kills, answered for the Lady Crusaders out of the break with a block and a set kill to tie things at 23. The Chicks responded with a kill, and after a timeout Wilding notched a kill and then her service ace to force a surprise set point, at 25-24, but Pleasant Hill scored the next three points to close out the set.
"One of our sayings is, 'Start fast, finish strong,'" Harris said. "Right out of the gate we didn't start fast, but first set and fourth set, overall we did have a pretty fast start. Against good teams it's not easy."
Helias trailed 9-5 early in the third set, but took advantage of unforced errors by Pleasant Hill to get within two, at 11-9. With Randolph serving, a set kill by Grace Verslues, a Randolph ace, a Lauren Strope kill and another service point for Randolph on an unreturned serve turned the tables. The Chicks continued to tie the game as both sides traded side outs before Pleasant Hill moved back ahead 18-16, and again at 22-20, before Harris called timeout.
Mingucci provided another kill out of the timeout, then a Pleasant Hill error tied the game at 22. A set kill for Helias prompted a timeout, and the Lady Crusaders took the set on their second set point thanks to an Albertson kill.
It was all Helias in the final set after Pleasant Hill took a 3-1 lead. A Dobbs kill, three service points for Annica Luebbering and four service points for Verslues later, the Lady Crusaders led 10-4. Verslues had 17 assists in the win, and Luebbering finished with 15 digs.
"The third set was back-and-fourth, back-and-forth, it was close," Harris said. "We pulled it out at the end, we kind of pulled away at the end, then in the forth set we kind of carried that momentum that we had at the end of the third set into the fourth. We never really let them back into the game, and that's a sign of a good team."
Landrey VanOverschelde, who totaled 25 assists, had four straight service points later in the set to make it 18-7, and Helias closed the set and match out on an unforced error.
Helias lost the JV match 23-25, 25-17, 11-15.
Claire Manns, Faith Ann Meyer and Stella Struttmann each had five kills, Summer Hake tallied five kills and a block and Libby Gaines had four kills, five digs and two blocks. Setter Tori Schmidt had 13 assists and 11 digs, Ava Miller added eight digs, 12 service points and an ace, and Hannah Luetkemeyer had five digs and two assists. Camryn Strope (five digs, nine service points) and Makayla Luebbert (five digs, 10 service points, two aces) were also strong in service in the loss, the team's first of the season (3-1).
The Lady Crusaders won the freshman match 25-10, 25-13, to improve to 9-1 this season. Addisyn Bryant notched nine service points, five assists and two digs, Sarah Holloway had 11 assists, five digs and an ace, Isabella Herrbold had seven service points, two aces, three digs and a kill and Adalyn Koelling had four kills and four blocks. Madison Kempker and Brooke Yanskey each added three kills and Kalyn Saucier and Kearra Steinlage both had two kills.