BEECHER — It’s easy to understand why Beecher is undefeated on the season.
Its passing is top notch, the serving is very precise, its net play is exceptional and, most importantly, it doesn’t beat itself.
Look no further than Thursday’s River Valley Conference matchup, when the Bobcats made quick work of Gardner-South Wilmington with a straight set victory 25-9 and 25-12.
“We always practice hard, but they get harder when it comes to conference games,” Beecher coach Emily Doersam said. “We put our best lineup out there, and we didn’t have that many kills, but that’s because our serving was excellent.”
How it happened
It simply was a series of runs throughout the first set.
Beecher started ahead 5-1 before the Panthers closed the gap to 6-5 after a kill from Carson Halpin and an ace by Maddie Schuck.
That was the closet the Panthers got in the opening set, as the Bobcats found the gaps and took advantage of Panther mistakes via serving errors and miscommunications in serve receive.
That 6-5 lead ballooned to 17-7 after an 11-2 run capped by an ace from Madison Irwin. The Bobcats finished on an 8-2 run with outstanding net play led by A.J. Picicco to cap the first set.
“G-SW is always really good defensively,” Doersam said. “They put a strong presence up at the net, so we wanted to go full force against that. We have two freshman who play, and I made a last minute switch, but fortunately for us, we played an outstanding game.”
The second set was much of the same. Kaylie Sippel’s serving allowed the Bobcats to jump out to a quick 6-0 lead, and the Panthers had no answer from that point for the Bobcats’ serving or net play.
Most teams have a go-to player they can rely on for a critical kill, ace or just a solid serve to give themselves a chance for a point.
Fortunately for Beecher, Sippel fits that exact mold, and she showed her versatility from the line and at the net.
After getting an ace, block and a kill in the first set, she turned her game up in the second. It was her serving that started the 6-0 run in the beginning of the second set as she logged three aces.
She did more damage later by adding three kills in the middle of the set before the Bobcats closed out the game.
“She’s such a great server,” Doersam said. “Her, along with Margaret Landis, are two players that I can easily count on at the serving line. Kaylie can stay at the line as long as our defense can keep her there.
“She’s an awesome setter and sets the ball up perfectly for our hitters,” Doersam continued. “We’re running a 5-1 formation with her, yet we’re also running things to get her the ball in the front row because she can put it away as well.”
Dealing with Sippel is a job in itself. But once she sets the ball up, Picicco becomes an even bigger problem.
The senior hitter swings hard and down with such force it’s nearly impossible to get a dig on her hits.
Similar Sippel, she’s dangerous from nearly anywhere on the court, but her net play is what separates her from the rest.
She finished with six kills on the night, including three kills during the final 8-2 run in the first set that buried the Panthers.
“It doesn’t matter where she is, we’re giving her the ball,” Doersam said. “Whether it’s back row or front row, we know she’s going to put the ball down. She’s a strong presence both blocking and hitting.”
Beecher is back in action today, as it takes part in the Bradley-Bourbonnais tournament. Gardner-South Wilmington takes part in the Westminster Christian Invitational today.
A version of this story appeared in the Friday digital edition of the Daily Journal.