It was a day for comebacks, a record-setting day and a championship day all in one for Burlington Central’s volleyball team Saturday at the Hampshire High School tournament.
The Rockets overcame a 10-point run and seven-point deficit in the second set by Richmond-Burton and Penn State-bound star Ali Frantti to claim a 25-21, 25-23 victory in the title match as outside hitter Lauren Wiltsie returned full speed from knee surgery to lead Central’s attack.
“We haven’t won a tournament in several years,” Burlington Central coach Marv Leavitt said. “It’s a big thing to do that.
“It’s a great effort from us. We were down in that game. That’s part off our team is when we’ve been down this year we always seem to bounce back.”
Wiltsie’s kill and then a block by Makenna Jenssen that led to a net violation by Richmond-Burton resulted in the final two points to break a 23-all tie and give Central (17-7) its second win over its conference rival in two weeks.
The Rockets didn’t have Wiltsie in their Sept. 24, three-set conference win over Richmond-Burton, but she had five kills and three aces in the title match Saturday after recovering from Sept. 10 arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Wiltsie had returned for part of a match Thursday, but Saturday played extensively.
“It was hard to be out, but being the captain I have to support our team and I thought I did,” she said. “I did some things on my own and tried my best to stay on a level which my teammates were at.
“It feels way better than it did before surgery. I’m so grateful to be playing again.”
It took a complete effort to beat Frantti and Richmond-Burton as Jenna Schudel and Jensen had seven kills apiece, while Jane Collins had two big stuffs of Frantti at the net and a kill off a free ball to get the Rockets a 23-22 lead after Frantti’s nine serving points and three aces had put them in a big hole.
In the first set, Burlington Central dominated early with the first six points and was never fronted.
Against Frantti, serve receive and passing are critical and Rockets libero Allie O’Reilly had another standout effort with 22 digs. In the process, she broke the Rockets’ career dig record held by Sam Bohne (1,173), who is playing at Jacksonville State. O’Reilly is over 1,200 digs and still going strong, and has 440 on the year.
Burlington Central had beaten Hampshire to reach the finals and Richmond-Burton topped Harvest Christian. Harvest Christian took third place, while Hampshire was fourth.
“Our girls did a good job coming back after an especially disappointing match we had Thursday against Grayslake North,” Hampshire coach Andrew Lindley said. “It was more consistent, we were working as a team and had a little more aggressiveness coming out.”
Lindley lauded the play of right side-middle Caitlin Conlon nad setter Britttany Laffin.
“Really, it was a good team effort throughout,” he said.
South Elgin went 3-2 on the day and beat Woodstock 25-22, 25-14 for the consolation title behind three straight aces by Renee Rush in the first set and consecutive kills from Bri Reum in the second set after the Blue Streaks had tied it at 22.
“We came out slow in pool play (losing to Harvest and Burlington Central) and had problems with serve receive, which made it hard to stay in the our system and execute,” said coach Adam Plach, who was taking over for his wife Joni, the Storm head coach, who was out for medical reasons. “Then we started to come around and were more effective.”