Warrior volleyball season ends in quarterfinal loss

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Lexi Loan had a team-high 18 kills in Central’s playoff victory against Starmont. (Photos by Bev Hamann)

Setter Lizzie Royer put up 38 assists in the Warriors’ Oct. 17 win.

Katelyn Scherf and Tori Sylvester paired up for a block in Central's win against the Stars.

Aly Feickert hits the ball through the North Cedar block in the 3-0 loss on Oct. 19.

By Willis Patenaude, Times-Register

 

The Central volleyball season is officially over, but under the leadership of new head coach Kelly Erickson, the team showed improvement in several statistical categories. That included wins, where the Warriors surpassed last year’s total and even won a playoff game, something the program failed to do the previous three seasons. 

 

The effort laid the foundation for future success, evidenced by an Oct. 17 first round playoff victory over Starmont, a team the Warriors lost to earlier in the season in straight sets. 

 

Central took down the Stars 25-23 in a close first set, and though they dropped the second 25-21, the Warriors handled the beleaguered Stars in a back and forth third set by a score of 28-26. They eventually closed the door on Starmont with a 25-18 win in the fourth set, to take the match.  

 

“This was a huge win for our team. This was what we worked all season for, and it was great to see that all of the hard work this team has put in, they were able to see and feel what it is like to be successful,” Erickson said. “Changing the mentality of the program is something we have really worked on this season, and I hope this is just the start of where we want this program to go.” 

 

Lizzie Royer led the offense with 38 assists, while Lexi Loan had a team high 18 kills, followed by Aly Feickert with 10 and Tori Sylvester with seven. The team finished with 43 total kills. 

 

The defense came up with five blocks, with Loan and Katelyn Scherf each getting two. The Warriors also finished with 112 digs, led by Royer with 25, Feickert with 22, Sylvester 18 and Mackayla Vlazny 13. 

 

Central had nine aces from the service line, with Sylvester hitting three and Loan and Scherf each earning two. The team finished at 88.8 percent efficiency.  

 

But as good as the Warriors looked against the Stars, early struggles with serve reception and hitting the ball in the first two sets in the second round playoff match-up against North Cedar created a hole the Warriors couldn’t dig themselves out of. They lost the match in straight sets, 25-11, 25-14 and 26-24. 

 

While the Warriors started to turn it around and play their brand of volleyball in the third set, they simply had nothing left. 

 

“In the last set, we started to play our game. We went out and gave it our all, leaving everything out on the floor. And I feel we did that in our last set,” Erickson said. 

 

The Central offense was highlighted by Royer’s 17 assists and Brooklyn Amsden’s performance filling in for the injured Gracie Cummer at the middle hitter position. Amsden had one assist, four kills and one block. 

 

Feickert and Loan continued to be team leaders, finishing with a combined 12 kills, 19 digs and three aces, while Royer and Vlazny had 20 combined digs. 

 

The performance of Amsden, the leadership of the seniors and the playoff victory were all positives for the Warriors in Erickson’s first year, but the season was filled with many others. The overall record improved from 10 wins to 12, including the playoff victory, and the Warriors finished fifth in the conference. 

 

According to Erickson, everything improved in terms of team play, from the serve reception, to kills, digs, blocks and serving—and the stats back this up. 

 

The Warriors had 874 more kill attempts, which means they were able to get their passes up to their setter with better accuracy to set up the hitters. They also had 191 more kills, 183 more serves and 42 more aces. Additionally, Central finished with 1,127 more digs this year, which means the team was able to play in sets more often as well. 

 

“We hope this is just a start. We want to continue to see growth and improvement in the program. But we also know we can’t do all of the work during the season. Players need to continue to play during the off season. This will be the only way for the program to really see a big difference in the future,” Erickson said. 

 

The positives extend to players as well. Loan, the outside hitter and “leader on the floor,” led the team in kills with 373, and finished fourth in the UIC in overall kills. 

 

“A lot of this has to do with her work ethic,” Erickson said. “She came to practice each and every day with the attitude of wanting and knowing what she needed to improve on, and worked really hard at trying to improve. She was definitely a leader out on the floor, and was always someone you could count on to get the job done.”

 

Not to be overlooked is Royer, the team’s setter, who was “instrumental in getting the ball to who we needed it,” Erickson said. Royer finished with 559 assists, which is more than any other setter in the last 14 seasons. Royer also led the UIC in assists. 

 

The defense was highlighted by Feickert, who led the team and conference with 428 digs. 

 

“Aly was instrumental in our defense and our increase in overall digs for the season. Aly also led the team in the number of serve attempts as well as serve efficiency. She was number one in the UIC for serve attempts, efficiency and serve successes,” Erickson said. 

 

Other notable players included Scherf, a departing senior like Loan and Feickert, who finished with 57 kills and 222 digs. Sylvester is another name to remember and all around “great asset,” who tallied 102 kills and was second on the team in digs with 351. She also led the team in blocks and was fifth overall in the UIC. 

 

Then there is a pair of juniors, Cummer and Vlazny. Before getting injured, Cummer had 107 kills and 26 blocks, while Vlazny had 204 digs. 

 

A final positive is the general success of the season and Erickson’s attempt to change the culture of the program. 

 

“The team grew tremendously in their play, as well as their confidence. They were able to prove to themselves and everyone that they had the ability to win,” Erickson said.

 

In Erickson’s view, this has “definitely changed the culture.” 

 

“I wanted them to know that they can do anything they set their minds to and that we had the ability to play with any team. Also that this is just the beginning,” she said. “It has been a really fun season. I really enjoyed working with this group of young ladies. And I am excited to see all the potential that we have coming up with some of our young players.”

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