By Steve Robinson | October 23, 2018 - 10:11 pm

NORMAL – University High’s top seeded Volleyball team swept Central Catholic in two games of the Class 3A Regional the Saints hosted Tuesday, earning a shot at the event’s championship. The Pioneers advanced to Thursday’s championship match by beating 7th seed BCC with scores of 26-24 and 25-18. The Pioneers will take on Manteno Thursday night. Manteno swept Fairbury Prairie Central by scores of 30-28 and 25-14.

U-High Takes Game One, 26-24: In game one, the top seed Pioneers and 7th seed Saints matched each other point for point until U-High pulled away thanks to a pair of kills – one by Alyanna Crabtree and one by Jess McDowell – to pull in front, 18-14, prompting BCC head coach Teresa Ulrich to call a timeout. Following the timeout, a Pioneers driving the ball into the net followed by a kill by senior middle hitter Morgan Koch cut the Pioneers’ lead to two, 19-17.

Saints sophomore outside hitter Abby Cox delivered two serves which proved problematic for U-High, the first was shot into the net while the second fell short of it, allowing BCC to tie the game at 20-20, prompting Pioneers head coach Michael Bolhuis to call timeout. The game would tie two more times, at 22-all and 24-all before U-High would overcome serves by Saints senior outside hitter Mallory Bergbower to take the first contest.

Pioneers Overcome Saints’ Streaks In Game Two, 25-18: University High struggled through the first part of the second game, leading briefly, 2-1 before BCC tied the game at 2-all, and with Cox serving, went on a four-point unanswered streak, taking a 6-2 lead until a Pioneers kill cut that lead, 6-3. U-High crept into an 8-all tie before a kill by junior setter Isobel Schaefbauer helped give them a one-point lead, 9-8, which they stretched into a 10-8 lead forcing BCC head coach Teresa Ulrich to take a timeout.

From there, the score would be tied once more at 10-all, but with junior outside hitter Alayna Crabtree and junior defensive specialist Skyler Jenkins serving, the Pioneers were able to advance to an 18-11 advantage. A kill each from Saints junior defensive specialist Ellie Nelson and U-High’s Tongate pushed U-High into a 22-15 lead. Crabtree, with her team up, 24-18, delivered U-High’s last serve which BCC returned but failed to keep in bounds leading to the final score, giving the Pioneers a sweep and a shot at the Regional crown provided they won against Manteno.

The victory advances U-High’s record going into the Regional Championship at 27-7. BCC’s season ends with a 21-15 record. Crabtree registered 6 kills while McDowell had 5 for U-High. McDowell also served three aces. Their teammate, senior setter Macy Tongate had 12 assists and three blocks. Junior defensive specialist Logan Murray had 4 digs.

While BCC had no aces, Cox scored 10 service points. Bergbower had 9 kills, followed by 7 from senior middle hitter Morgan Koch. Junior setter Kate Moorman-Wolfe lent 22 assists and had one block. Bergbower also had a block. Senior middle blocker Lauren O’Donnell had 9 digs followed by junior defensive specialist Sydney Adams’ 8.

“We knew BCC would try sending the ball to senior middle hitter Morgan Koch when they could and we didn’t do a very good job of slowing her down at all,” U-High’s Bolhuis said. “It was neck-and-neck, and kind of a high tension match all the way through,” Bolhuis said, giving credit to the seniors on his team with using their experience to get their team through the match and overcoming moments when they trailed.

BCC’s Ulrich said she reminded her team “U-High’s going to walk in here without any doubt they will walk out of here with a victory and I told our girls we have to do the same thing. In order to stay in this game, we’re going to have to be aggressive and fast at the net and if that means our middle hitters need to block, then that’s it.”

Ulrich said her team executed that plan well in game one, but she admitted, “Unfortunately, in game two, our nerves got the better of us because as soon as U-High started to come back, we started to retreat.”

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