Girls Volleyball: Harvest Christian denied state finals bid

Story Image Harvest Christian players react Saturday after losing to Keith Country Day School in the Class 1A Lanark Eastland Supersectional. | Dave Manley~For Sun-Times Media
Story Image

Whether it was the addition by Keith Country Day School of a 6-foot-3 player who didn’t compete in two earlier matches, or simply their own poor reaction to adversity, Harvest Christian’s volleyball team couldn’t be certain.

What Harvest Christian did know was that a golden opportunity to advance to the state semifinals was lost Saturday when the Lions suffered an 18-25, 25-19, 25-18 defeat at the hands of Keith Country Day in the Class 1A Lanark Eastland Supersectional.

“It wasn’t so much the mental aspect of it because we all knew we could win,” said Harvest Christian junior star Sydney Doby. “We weren’t finishing every play like we knew we could.

“It’s a real disappointment because this was our year to go downstate. We know we could have — could have, should have, would have, you know?”

The loss was all the more disappointing considering Harvest Christian (31-6) had reached the supersectionals last year, but ran into a buzzsaw Dakota team.

This time the Lions played a Keith Country Day team they beat twice in the regular season. But those wins came before 6-foot-3 Rockford Guilford transfer Adeja Lambert became eligible to play in sectionals last week.

Lambert finished Saturday’s match with six kills, but her presence opened up the Keith attack in a way that the 6-2 Doby and her teammates struggled unsuccessfully to plug.

“They came out firing and we didn’t block,” Harvest Christian coach Kim Floyd said. “The game plan was to put up a strong block and it didn’t happen.”

It started out fine for Harvest Christian, in what became a match decided by long runs. The Lions had the long run in the first set with Doby serving.

Seven straight points and a 10-1 run made it 14-4 and the Rockford team struggled to come back. But the Cougars rolled off a 12-0 run in the second set for a 14-3 lead that proved insurmountable. In the third set, a 10-2 run made for an 11-3 Keith Country Day lead and Harvest Christian never recovered.

“Once we’d get into a rut, even after you get out of it and you try working back and get three or four points here and there, then an unforced error kills the run,” Doby said.

Keith Country Day (31-7) had 15 kills from 5-11 sophomore outside hitter Iman McGary, as she took advantage of the defense worrying so much about Lambert and hit over the double block or easily beat single blocks.

Coach Lynn Cesario said Lambert’s presence in postseason let her move Alex Nunez to libero and balanced out the attack.

“We’re more of a team and a little more relaxed,” she said. “Having a strong libero and two strong outside hitters did (it). Adeja has come in and done very, very well and then Alex made us stronger defensively.”

Harvest tried to stage a last-ditch effort in the third set after falling behind 19-7. Five straight points made it more interesting, but Lambert’s tip kill broke the streak and then McGary had two of the final five points with kills. Lambert had the last one on a kill.

“I just don’t think we had the smartest game,” Doby said. “I don’t think (Lambert) was the reason we lost. She’s a great player, yeah, but one player doesn’t make a team.”

Doby finished with eight kills, seven aces and a block. Teammate Jordan Sollars, in her final prep match, had 10 kills and five assists. Senior Sarah Kott made two blocks, and senior setter Katelyn Floyd had 12 assists.

Now Keith Country Day moves on to play Kansas at Friday’s state semifinals while Harvest Christian will look to rebuild around Doby minus Sollers, Katelyn Floyd, Kott and Erica Manusos.

“I really believed this was the championship game,” Kim Floyd said. “This was a very strong supersectional.”

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