GALESBURG – The Sterling Golden Warriors have been the aggressor during most of their volleyball matches this season. But in Monday night’s 3A Galesburg Sectional semifinal, they were put back on their heels by Brittany Robinson and the stellar net play of the Limestone Rockets.
Robinson had 14 kills and two blocks, and had a full complement of hitters backing her up as the Rockets knocked out the Warriors with a 25-21, 25-15 victory.
“Usually we can go everywhere, but tonight they were just shutting us down,” Sterling senior hitter Macie Good said. “I give them props; they played phenomenal. They definitely deserved it.”
Kills by Brooklyn Borum, Josi Borum and Breelyn Borum turned a 9-8 deficit into a 12-9 Sterling lead in the first set. But after a timeout, Limestone (33-4) turned the tables.
A block by Hannah Majors sparked a 6-0 run, with a Robinson kill and block in there as well, and Sterling (35-3) never led again. An ace by Josi Borum and a Rocket hitting error tied the score at 17, then after two more ties, Breelyn Borum answered a Robinson kill with one of her own to tie it at 20.
But a block by Brooke Hammer and back-to-back kills by Robinson put Limestone ahead, and Robinson answered Josi Borum’s kill to end the set.
“We were just really well-prepared,” Robinson said. “We knew who their big weapons were, and we knew we had a ton of weapons on our side, so we felt comfortable at the net.”
Falling in that back-and-forth first game was a tough pill for Sterling to swallow, and Limestone took advantage. The Rockets ran out to a 10-2 lead in the second set, and the Warriors never recovered.
“I think they picked up, and we didn’t,” Sterling libero Lexi Rodriguez said. “They just kept getting more points, and we just started getting down on ourselves, and the lead just got bigger on their side.”
The biggest problem for Sterling was the inability to string together points. The Warriors trailed 16-6 before scoring back-to-back points for the first time in the set, and they managed to score consecutive points just twice more in the match.
“We just wanted to sideout as fast as we can,” Robinson said. “We knew if they got on any runs, it wouldn’t be good for us, so we wanted to limit them from those. We really matched up with their hitters, and it went really well for us.”
It was the net play that really made the difference,. While Robinson & Co. were getting hands on almost every Sterling spike, they were hitting against little resistance. That kept the Warriors scrambling, and took them completely out of system for much of the second set.
“They were touching us a lot, and our blockers weren’t getting many touches, so that put our defense in a bad spot,” Josi Borum said. “We were just pulling each other into the huddle and saying, ‘Let’s play for our seniors, let’s play for each other, this isn’t over.’ It didn’t really work, but we tried.”
Robinson added six digs to her kills and blocks, and libero Taylor Thomas racked up 12 digs. Laney Chiaravalle had 21 assists and seven digs, with Hammer and Lily Schneider and adding three kills each, and Majors and Sara Carr spiking two each. Carr added 11 points and six digs, and Hammer chipped in two blocks, eight points and two aces.
Josi Borum led Sterling with 11 kills, and also had five digs and four assists. Good added five kills, and Brooklyn and Breelyn Borum each had four kills, with Bree dishing 13 assists and Brook chipping in 11 digs. Rodriguez led the back row with 13 digs.
“They caught a head of steam at the end of the first set, and that allowed them to carry it over into the second set,” Sterling coach Dale Dykeman said. “Then it’s 10-1 before we even know what’s going on, and we’re doing everything we can to slow the game down and stop their momentum.
“We played with them from that point. If we start at zeroes there, I think it’s about a tie game. But you can’t spot a team like that 10 points. They carried the momentum, they did everything they needed to do, and we just didn’t perform well enough tonight to beat a high-quality team. That’s a top-five team in the state, and if you don’t bring your ‘A’ game against a team like that, what happened tonight happens.”