BLOOMINGTON — There would be no pulling away in a hotly contested Big 12 Conference volleyball match Thursday at the Robert Frank Sports Complex.
But when it came to pulling out tight victories, Bloomington High School found the tools for a 25-23, 30-28 win over Normal Community.
“The kids worked together and worked hard,” BHS coach Joe Sanders said. “The kids are excited. We’re 5-1 in the conference. This is a big hurdle for us to have a chance at that conference title.”
The Purple Raiders, who lost setter Lindsey Henderson to a turned ankle late in the first game, took a 24-23 lead on a Molly Lawrence tip and secured the final point on an Iron miscue.
“It was not pretty, but it’s Normal Community, our biggest competitor. It was really fun,” said Lawrence, who led BHS with eight kills. “They definitely improved from Intercity.”
NCHS (12-6, 3-3) held a 24-22 second-game lead after a Micki Quakenbush kill landed deep on the Raiders’ side. It was the first of five times the Iron was one point from a victory they could not complete.
“Painful,” NCHS coach Christine Konopasek said. “We’re young — we start two freshmen and two sophomores — but we need to make sure we capitalize on opportunities when we have the chance.
“I think we have the will to win. It’s just that we’re coming up that point or two short because of silly mistakes rather than being aggressive and playing to win.”
After BHS (14-6 overall) pulled into a 28-all tie, the Iron committed two straight errors to end the match.
“My heart was beating so fast,” said Lawrence. “It was crazy.”
Sydney Hendricks had 16 assists for BHS, Rachel Pierce 14 digs, Keeley Hynes 11 service points and Mary Lawrence and Niani Lewis two blocks each.
“That’s what you call a character builder,” Sanders said. “It’s good for you to be in that situation and pull it out.”
Molly Patkunas contributed nine assists and eight service points for NCHS. Hannah Sholtis added 17 digs, Quakenbush six kills and Emily Diaz three blocks.
“We did a better job the second game running our middles and making sure we had all three offensive options,” said Konopasek. “That was something we didn’t do the first game.”