VOLLEYBALL: Herscher tops Coal City in unbeaten conference clash
HERSCHER — Something had to give in Thursday night’s match between Herscher and Coal City.
Each team entered the night with unblemished records in the Interstate Eight Conference, but only one team would be able to say the same at the end of the night.
And it was the Tigers who did that, defending their home turf with a 2-0 win (25-17, 25-17). The win improved the Tigers to 13-7 on the season and 5-0 in conference play. The Coalers fell to 12-6 and 5-1 in the conference.
With the natural distractions that come with homecoming week, including an unannounced late-night trip to their coach’s house on Wednesday, Tigers coach Joel Huizenga said this was a match his team usually struggles with, but he “couldn’t be happier,” with how his team performed.
“Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, we just weren’t mentally sharp. It’s homecoming week, we never win these matches. The girls teepee’d my house last night, you’re just like, ‘Oh, here we go,’” Huizenga said. “We did take some time to sit down for a minute and say, ‘Hey, we have a goal where conference is concerned and this is our biggest roadblock to date; you need to treat this like a regional championship,’ and that’s how they played.”
Despite the loss, Coal City coach Pam McMurtrey said the Coalers gave a good effort, but were simply too passive.
“I’m proud of the effort. Did we play as well as we have been? No, we didn’t,” McMurtrey said. “We played quiet tonight, not aggressive as usual, especially with our attacking.”
Both teams used stout defense and terrific team-passing to keep things narrow for a while, but the Tigers found their stride after an 11-11 tie, cruising away to a 25-17 victory in the first set. Senior Megan Berns, who had six kills, said the Tigers knew they had to come out strong in the first set.
“We knew we were playing a good team and had to be prepared,” Berns said. “We knew that tonight, we couldn’t mess around; we had to get right to the point and put the ball down.”
And the Tigers continued to do just that in the second set. After an early 6-3 Coalers lead, the two teams again deadlocked at 11, before once again, the Tigers pulled away, thanks to a well-balanced attack.
Mady Rogers led the Tigers with eight kills and Claudia Huston added seven, but it was Berns and her six kills that Huizenga was impressed with most, particularly her ball placement.
“It’s a conversation we have, and for some reason tonight, she made sure she was going to make that happen,” Huizenga said. “You could see it from her very first swing and she just never stopped. She got stops when we needed stops, she extended runs, she just did a great job.”
In addition to hear team-high eight kills, Rogers also led the Tigers with 13 digs, while Huston added nine digs and an ace. Chloe Chavers had three aces 14 assists. Joslyn Galeaz has two blocks and Jordan Pierce had nine assists.
More Than Volleyball
Thursday was Go Gold Night at Herscher, a night to honor those affected by childhood cancer. Zayla Mitsdarffer, who would have been a senior on the Tigers volleyball team, died from cancer in 2016 at age 14. Megan Bugg, a senior at Coal City, played volleyball as a child until being diagnosed with cancer in 2014.
A fundraiser was held for each child’s organization, as well as the Ashley Can Foundation, in honor of Ashley Montgomery, who died of cancer in 2017 at age 25. Mitsdarffer’s mother, Chris, and Bugg both spoke before the match, as did Berns and Huizenga.
“It really helps us come together as a community and support this cause, since it’s been a big impact around Coal City and Herscher,” Berns said. “It’s a really big part of our lives and will never go away until there’s a cure.”
The Coalers are be back in action on Saturday at the Manteno Classic. The Tigers host Momence on Monday.