BLOOMINGTON — Second-string setter Bett O’Neal turned in a first-string performance for the Bloomington High School volleyball team during a 25-19, 25-17 victory over Normal West at the Robert Frank Sports Complex on Tuesday.
O’Neal was filling in for starting sophomore setter Corinna Jones, who hopes to return from a concussion next week.
“The more Bett plays, the more comfortable she’s going to get,” said BHS coach Joe Sanders, whose team improved to 8-0 in the Big 12 Conference and 19-11 overall ahead of Thursday’s 7 p.m. showdown at Normal Community. “I thought she did a pretty good job most of the time.
“This is what happens when somebody gets injured. Other kids have to step up.”
Normal West, which lost to BHS by the same score in the Intercity Tournament, fell to 11-16 and 4-4. The Wildcats will get a rematch against the Purple Raiders in the opening round of the Champaign Centennial Class 4A Regional on Oct. 24.
In her fourth match as the starting setter, O’Neal provided 13 assists, eight of which went to Leah Anderson for kills. Fia Parker chipped in nine digs, eight service points and two aces. Avery Carr and Lexi Packard had two blocks apiece.
“Our defense was good,” Sanders said. “Our serve receive was really good. We don’t quite have the flow yet. The timing is a little shaky. As Bett gets more comfortable and the hitters get more comfortable with her, things will get better.”
O’Neal is thankful for Jones’ mentoring.
“I think her helping me out, talking to me through things helps a lot,” O’Neal said. “(The hitters) try really hard to work around me and I try to help them out too. Coming together as a team always works for us.”
BHS hustled to leads of 3-0, 9-4 and 12-7 in the first game before the Wildcats rallied to force ties at 14, 15, 16 and 17. The Purple Raiders closed the game on a 9-2 run that appeared to end on an Ellie Weltha kill, but West dug it off the ceiling and sent it back before Anderson’s kill ended it.
“I feel like we played very solid,” Anderson said. “Our defense was really solid. I think (O’Neal) is handling it really well for it being put on her so fast. (West) has improved so much since last time.”
In game two, there were six ties until a Wildcat serving error sent BHS on a 9-1 run. Bogged down by unforced errors, West never cut the gap below six the rest of the way.
“Against a good team like Bloomington, ideally we want to limit those (unforced errors) as much as possible,” said Wildcat coach Kelsey Mueller. “They really took care of the ball. They didn’t give us any easy points. It’s tough to beat a team like that.
“I know they’ve been going through some injuries. I thought they handled that really well. I thought they still played pretty smooth. Our first contact is something we’re going to focus on in the next few weeks before regionals.”
Eastern Illinois recruit Hannah Sieg had four blocks for West while Sam Williams checked in with eight kills and Dara Kane had 17 assists. Kylie Bryant chipped in nine digs and Aniya Monla three aces.