Savages hold off Cardinal to advance

Heidi Clarahan (3) and Brooke Waechter (9) turned defense into points. They each had four blocks in the win over Cardinal on October 17.

The Sigourney volleyball team matched up with Cardinal on October 17, in the first round of Regionals. It wasn’t expected to be easy, and it wasn't at times, but the Savages came out on top in four sets.

A common trend for Sigourney continued, giving up early points to the opponent and playing slower on defense. Once they got some points on the board, the offense began to click and gained more confidence. The girls kept building off each successful play, leading to a statement first set win, 25-17.

Despite getting the early win, the Savages started the second set sluggish, falling behind by a handful of points. There was no sense of panic, with the Savages being in that type of situation many times in the season. They fought back and took a small lead on Cardinal, but couldn't hold it for long. Back and forth lead went, exchanging hands every few serves.

"I give them heart and credit for coming back when we're down," said Savage coach Chris Carter. "We have to find a way to fix that, we can't do that against better teams."

Things got tight late in the second set, but the Savages had just enough of a push to win it. The score was 25-22, with Sigourney only needing one more set to eliminate Cardinal. Unfortunately for those cheering on the Savages, a sweep wasn't in the cards.

The third set began as the prior two had, with Sigourney fighting behind a majority of the time. Sigourney kept things close at times, but Cardinal made some adjustments and it began to show. Some timely errors made by Sigourney, in addition to the improved Cardinal offense, resulted in a third set score of 25-16, in favor of the opponent.

"The first two sets we were hitting off of their block and finding holes," Chris said. "They stepped up their hitting and our blocks weren't getting there in the third set."

Even though Sigourney still lead the overall match score, some of the excitement and enthusiasm had faded from the bench and home crowd. Cardinal sensed a possible shift and used it in their favor, taking another early lead in the fourth set.

"We've been in that situation many times this season," Chris said. "It was close in the fourth set but I knew that we'd get the win."

The script was similar, with Sigourney taking a minimal lead, but not holding it for long. Neither team could find much rhythm, with Cardinal holding a lead for much of the set. Sigourney began to rally, eventually quieting the Cardinal crowd, who had come alive with their team.

From there, the Sigourney crowd saw the end in sight and hoped to help push their team to the end. The energy from the crowd may have been that IT factor, as Sigourney completed the comeback to take the set 25-23 and end the match.

"We told our players all night that we needed to play our game," Chris said. "We needed to pass, set and be smart on offense. At times our hitters were too aggressive at times, but I was happy with how our kids were swinging, just need to learn to control and be smart with it."

Something the Savages excelled at was blocking. Throughout the night, 11 of Cardinals attacks were blocked, four apiece coming from Heidi Clarahan and Brooke Waechter. Sloane Magill also had two blocks and Makenna Hammes recorded one. Every block came at a key time, whether it was to keep a rally alive, or end Cardinal from increasing a lead. Two of the more important blocks came late in the final set, allowing Sigourney to keep the ball on their side of the floor.

Many of the same names also had an impact on the offensive side of play. Magill led the team in kills with ten and also led with three aces on 16 successful serves. Waechter and Leah Carter also finished with nine kills apiece, while Hammes had eight. Leah also pitched in with 30 assists, 18 successful serves and one dig. As a team, the Savages only missed on six of their 91 serve attempts.

With the win, Sigourney got a draw with rival Pekin. The two teams had already played each other twice earlier in the season, with each side getting a win. Sigourney did something they hadn’t done in years, by going to Pekin High and getting a win on their floor. The match-up on October 23 wasn't only the rubber match, but the winner also advanced to the next round of Regionals.