When it comes to hitting or setting, Lincoln-Way East’s Kailey Hackett doesn’t have a favorite.
“I like both,” she said. “Leah (Seielstad) puts up really good sets and it’s easy for me to hit the ball. And our passers are great, so I like to set the ball, too.”
Tuesday, she used both aspects of her game to help the Griffins survive a stout challenge from visiting Homewood-Flossmoor and post a 24-26, 25-9, 25-20 SouthWest Suburban Red victory.
The 5-foot-9 junior recorded 12 assists, but it was her hitting when Seielstad came in and East ran a 6-2 offense that made the biggest difference. Hackett put down seven of her 10 kills in the final two games, after H-F made a stunning comeback in Game 1.
Lindsey Paulsen was also a major stepper-upper for East (11-9, 2-0), the majority of her eight blocks coming in the final two games as well. Hackett added 13 service points, Mel Weller seven kills and 16 digs, Maddie Nirchi 18 digs, Sarah Dobrich five blocks and two aces and Seielstad 17 assists and 12 service points.
For H-F (8-16, 0-2), Mady Hallahan had nine blocks and six kills, Grace Bialobok six kills, Lauren Kuchta 11 digs, Delaney Herkert 11 assists and nine digs and Helena Villar eight assists.
East led 24-18 and about to put Game 1 away when the Hallahan and Alex Lawton went on a blocking spree at the net. Madison Larocca was rock-steady from the service line. An 8-0 run was completed on a combo block by Lawton and Hallahan.
It was a flurry that frustrated the 6-1 Paulsen, but didn’t deter her from making adjustments.
“Coach told me to find a way to hit around the block,” Paulsen said. “The team was encouraging me, and I was able to start putting the ball where it needed to be.”
Just as important, she put up her own effective block that was good for two points in a 6-0 run early in Game 2 that seemed to take some of the pressure off the Griffins.
“I think it got into our a heads a little too much,” Paulsen said. “But our team all came together at the end and we really encouraged each other.”
Hackett seemed to find most of her energy when Seielstad rotated to the front row to set and she became a hitter. Her furious swings from the right side helped salt away Game 2. In Game 3 Hackett, Paulsen and Dobrich were able to, if not shut down, at least blunt H-F’s net game.
The Vikings rallied again near the end, whittling a 19-14 deficit down to 22-20 after a kill to the back line by Margaret Moore. Hackett, though, had the final say for East, snapping down her final kill, after which a serve by Seielstad was misplayed by H-F for the final point.
“The girls fought hard,” H-F coach Anthony Kruse said. “When we were down 24-18 we just said in the huddle, ‘Hey, you’ve got to be perfect.’ And they were . They played probably the best eight points they’ve played all season.
“So we were very proud of them to come back in that first game. We just didn’t take the momentum into the rest of the match.”