AMBOY – Playing the same team three times in a season can be a tough thing, especially when you’ve already beaten said team the first two times.
But focus wasn’t an issue for the Newman Comets volleyball team Monday, as they dispatched Three Rivers rival Amboy 25-14, 25-17 in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A Amboy Regional.
“We set different team goals for the girls tonight, to keep them focused and motivated,” said Comets coach Debbi Kelly. “It’s tough to play a team three times, especially being on their home court in the postseason, but we switched some things up and played well.”
Newman trailed only once in the opening set, 1-0, before taking control with a block and a kill by Rachel Hageman (10 points, 5 kills, 2 blocks). The Clippers got as close as two points (13-11), but a net serve gave Newman (21-11) a sideout, then Aubree Schmitt (5 points, 2 aces, 3 kills, 3 blocks) reeled off three straight points – two on aces – to restore order.
Amboy also scored the first point of the second set, and took leads of 5-4 and 6-5 on Newman hitting errors. But a Hageman kill tied the score at 6-6, then she served six straight points – on an ace, kills by Schmitt, Megan Rosengren (5 kills, 1 block) and Bree deLong (3 kills), and a pair of Amboy hitting errors – to get the Comets back on track.
After an Amboy sideout, Rosengren sandwiched two more kills around a Schmitt block for a 16-9 lead.
“We just kept our composure, kept talking and playing together as a team,” said Hageman of the Clippers’ second-set spurt. “We fed off every positive play, and never underestimated Amboy. We expected them to fight back and keep coming at us, and we knew we had to have the answer.”
Amboy never gave in, but the Comets were just too much. Setters Kayci Howell (11 assists, 9 points, 4 aces) and Allison Shipman (5 assists, 4 points) scored back-to-back tip-kills, then Howell reeled off back-to-back aces for a 22-12 lead.
Kaitlyn Appleman (2 kills, 2 points, 1 ace) followed a kill with two straight points, the second an ace, to get within 23-16, but the match ended with the team trading hitting errors over the final three points.
Hannah McCoy tied Appleman for the Amboy lead with two kills, while Madeline Ely, Tori Welch and Elizabeth Ortgiesen served three points each. The Comets out-killed the Clippers 19-5, out-blocked them 7-0, and served eight aces to Amboy’s two in a 30-13 advantage in service points.
“All in all, I was proud of how hard we played, how we never let down, and the fact that we were still diving for balls until the very end,” Amboy coach Janet Nehring said. “But they found the holes in our defense, and we just couldn’t cover them up.”
The loss closed out a winless season for the Clippers, while the third-seeded Comets advance to tonight’s regional semifinal against second-seeded Marquette, at approximately 7 p.m. It will follow the other semifinal, fourth-seeded Somonauk (which beat Serena in to sets Monday) against top-seeded Seneca, which will start at 6 p.m.
“I enjoy getting out and playing on the first night, because we’ve only had a few girls who have played in regionals before,” Kelly said. “I like getting that first match under our belt before we play the semifinals, just to get a better feel for things and get those jitters out. That’ll help as the matches get bigger and bigger.”
Class 2A Amboy Regional quarterfinal
Newman def. Amboy 25-14, 25-17
Star of the match: Rachel Hageman, Newman, 10 points, 5 kills, 2 blocks
Key performers: Megan Rosengren, Newman, 5 kills, 1 block; Kayci Howell, Newman, 11 assists, 9 points, 4 aces; Aubree Schmitt, Newman, 3 kills, 3 blocks, 5 points, 2 aces; Kaitlyn Appleman, Amboy, 2 kills, 2 points, 1 ace
Up next: Class 2A Amboy Regional semifinal, Newman vs. Marquette, 7 p.m. today