Match after match this fall, the Highland Bulldogs volleyball team had answers and won against virtually every opponent right into the IHSA Class 3A playoffs.
On Monday (Oct. 29) at Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, the top-seeded Bulldogs came out a bit flat and had few answers to a talented Taylorville Tornadoes club.
Taylorville ended Highland’s special season with a 25-13, 25-13 sectional semifinal loss, ousting the Bulldogs from the Class 3A tournament.
It was a night where the Bulldogs made unforced errors and could not get into a rhythm long enough to take control at any point for long in the match.
“We just kind of made some silly errors and never just kind of put things together,” Highland coach Katelyn Hagarty said. “We could never get any service runs, or get that momentum or get a call (going) our way to give us some energy on our side, so it was one of those nights.”
Last year as well, the Tornadoes were the culprits that ended Highland’s season. That loss was in the regional championship round. The Bulldogs were familiar with Taylorville from last year’s tournament, so there were no real surprises this time around.
“They are a tough team and they’re really scrappy and they work hard on their side,” Hagarty said. “There were a few times where we picked it up and had a couple of good swings, but we couldn’t put everything together like we needed to. It was just kind of having an off night.”
Sophomore outside hitter Bella LaPorta led the Bulldogs offense with 7 kills for the night while senior middle hitter Claire Diercks added 4 kills and 3 blocks in final match as a Bulldog.
Junior setter Meghan Vidmar distributed 13 assists.
Senior outside hitter Jennessa Kimmle finished her final Highland match with a team-high four points.
The sectional semifinal stumble was the last thing the Bulldogs expected but despite falling just three wins short of the first state appearance in program history, Hagarty was beaming with pride over the run that was fueled by seniors Diercks, Kimmle, Emmy Nyquist, Megan Ramsey, and Lexi Taylor.
That group led the Bulldogs to a school record in wins this fall and the program’s first regional championship as well as the Mississippi Valley Conference championship.
“Getting out of regionals, getting the most wins in school history, those are two huge accomplishments and they earned those, so I’m very, very happy for them,” Hagarty said. “They are a great group and have done so much for our program and I thank them for their hard work and dedication the past few years and I wish them nothing but the best.”
The future also should be promising for the Bulldogs spikers in part thanks to the prolific sectional semifinal run.
“As much as I hate to see my seniors go, I’m hopeful that our young ones take this as a learning experience to see what it takes to go up there and lay at this level and know that there’s no reason we can’t back up there next year and compete with a team like that.”