FAIRBURY — While University High School’s volleyball team played its best match of the season, Central Catholic found itself maddeningly out of sync during a 25-8, 25-9 Pioneer romp in the Class 3A Prairie Central Regional final on Thursday.
U High, which had beaten the Saints 25-21, 25-20 on Sept. 23, improved to 25-10 while Central ended the season at 19-18. The Pioneers will face New Lenox Providence (18-18) in Monday’s 6:30 p.m. Pontiac Sectional semifinal.
Pioneer coach Mike Bolhuis, whose school won its 19th regional overall and second in three years, was duly surprised by the margin of victory.
“I imagine if we play that match again it’s a lot closer than that,” he said. “Give credit to our girls. They came out from the very beginning and executed just how we wanted them to. It was a full match of execution.
“That was probably the most complete match that we’ve played all year. You’re hoping to do that come postseason. It’s an accumulation of hard work and them all putting it together and clicking at the same time.”
U High, which has eight seniors to Central’s two, watched 6-foot senior middle hitter Addy Loeffler hammer a team-high eight kills while sophomore Isabel Schaefbauer provided five kills, 13 assists and three aces.
“When we played them in Intercity, it was a lot closer,” Loeffler said. “We came out with a lot of energy. We just knew we had to get it done.”
Alexis Engst, who had 13 assists for U High, said, “Everyone clicked. We were all playing our best game from the beginning. When we walked in here, we were so excited. We were pumping ourselves up.”
Points ended so quickly, the Pioneers didn’t have to dig up many balls. Their leader was Kimmy Sendelbach with five digs.
“We came in tonight not ready,” said perplexed Central coach J.R. Banister. “We seemed like we wanted to play. U High is a good club. We played better in Intercity than what we showed them tonight.
“We have some young players out there trying to fill some big shoes. I really don’t have words to say what went on other than we did not play our best.”
Nothing seemed amiss as U High took a 4-3 lead in game one, but then a Macy Tongate kill ignited a 16-2 Pioneer run that didn’t end until Bailey Coffman’s kill pulled Central within 20-6. A Tongate kill later accounted for game point.
The anticipated comeback by the Saints in game two disappeared when U High bolted to an 8-1 lead. A Coffman kill stopped the bleeding, but the Pioneers tacked on a 5-0 run to go up 13-2. Central never scored more than two consecutive points the rest of the way and match point came on a kill by Loeffler.
The match ended a season of adversity for Central, which played most of the way without Western Illinois recruit Erika Moore because of a knee injury.
“It’s been rough,” Banister said. “We’ve had to deal with a lot of injuries. We’ve dealt with kids coming in and playing different positions. We’ve got young kids filling in starting positions.”
Sophomore setters Kate Moorman-Wolfe and Libby Palmer had four and three assists, respectively. Notching two kills apiece were juniors Morgan Koch, Coffman and Mallory Bergbower. Senior Emily Butt and Bergbower each had 11 digs. Coffman added one block.