BLOOMINGTON — Like a dissatisfied customer at a restaurant, the Bloomington High School volleyball team kept sending back the best Normal Community could offer at the Bob Frank Sports Complex on Tuesday.
The resulting 25-15, 25-19 victory moved the two-time defending Big 12 Conference champion Purple Raiders to 26-4 overall and 8-0 atop the league with two Big 12 matches remaining.
“Bloomington is super solid,” said NCHS coach Christine Konopasek. "They run probably one of the faster offenses we've seen this year."
Directing that offense is junior setter Corinna Jones, who logged 21 assists.
"I think Corinna does a really good job of distributing so that everybody has opportunities," Konopasek said.
Most of Jones' sets went to Southern Indiana recruit Leah Anderson, who had 11 kills, 10 digs, eight service points, two aces and two blocks.
"We had a really good weekend (going 4-1 in the Mizuno Cup at St. Charles) and tonight wasn't as good as our weekend," Anderson said. "We didn't quite get what we wanted. We're ready to go into our next games and play harder."
Anderson made things hard on the Iron with three early kills that helped BHS take a 6-4 lead in game one.
"Leah did a nice job of mixing up her shots," Konopasek said. "She's more of a power hitter, but she added some tips and roll shots."
NCHS was still within 15-12 when a kill by Lauren Strange sent the Raiders on a 10-3 game-ending run that saw Avery Carr provide the final kill.
"She's doing a really good job," said BHS coach Joe Sanders of Jones. "She can make hard things look easy. She's deceptive because she can face one way and can deliver a quick (set) the other way."
In game two, NCHS forced six ties, the last at 6-6 before a kill by Wisconsin Parkside-bound Lexi Packard put the hosts ahead to stay. The Iron's last flurry, a 3-0 run, pulled them within 17-14, but another Packard kill sent BHS on its way.
"I think there are times when because they pass well and because Corinna is a very talented setter, it makes it so that they are able to be deceptive and fast," Konopasek said. "That's hard to keep up with."
Sanders wanted to see more polish.
“We played OK. We didn't play great,” said Sanders, whose team also topped NCHS, 25-17, 25-15, in the Intercity Tournament. "We made way too many unforced errors.
"I think we can play well. We've just got to play a little cleaner volleyball."
Jones finds comfort in knowing every set doesn't have to be perfect for her hitters to blast a kill.
"Definitely the expectation for me is to set a perfect ball every time, but I know if something goes wrong, they are so good they can take it and make a reliable shot," Jones said.
"It definitely wasn't how we wanted to play. We had a few too many errors, but it's good to come out with a win in conference."
Packard had six kills and two blocks while Illinois Wesleyan-recruit Grace Sanders, the coach’s daughter, had 10 digs as did libero Fia Parker.
Kelsey DeRoeck led the Iron with five kills while Izzy McCormick had six digs and Katie Gerig handed out eight assists. Gerig’s five older sisters — Nicki, Vanessa, Jackie, Jessie and Ginny — all played volleyball for NCHS.
"We were making subs trying to find something that would work," Konopasek said. "We have a lack of experience that is a struggle for us."
NCHS (11-11, 5-3) could face BHS again in the Oct. 25 Class 4A Danville Regional final. The Raiders are seeded first in their sub-sectional while the Iron are seeded fifth.