Girls Volleyball: Westminster Christian, Harvest Christian set for regional title fight

Story Image Elgin -The Lions of Harvest Christian Academy battle the Hilltoppers of Elgin Academy in class 1A regional volleyball playoffs. Ellie Burzlaff (left) and Sarah Kott Harvest go to block a shot by Claire Flugel Elgin. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
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Updated: October 23, 2012 9:33PM

The volleyball border battle between neighboring Elgin schools Westminster Christian and Harvest Christian will be renewed once more Thursday after both emphatically took care of business in Tuesday’s semifinals at the Westminster Christian Class 1A Regional.

The second-seeded host Warriors dismantled Alden-Hebron 25-10, 25-13 after top-seeded Harvest Christian quickly recovered from a slow start to dispatch Elgin Academy 25-11, 25-7.

“We’re next-door neighbors, and we’re really used to playing them,” Harvest Christian’s star middle Sydney Doby said of Westminster Christian. “It’s great competition and a good rivalry for us.”

Westminster Christian (19-7) has lost four straight to Harvest Christian (28-5) and last beat the Lions Sept. 17 last year in three wild games. Harvest Christian appears poised to make the kind of run it did last year when the Lions made a supersectional appearance, but Westminster Christian typically plays its neighborhood rival tough.

Harvest Christian came out shaky in the first game against Elgin Academy Tuesday, falling behind 8-7. The Lions ran off 10 straight and scored 43 of the next 53 points behind the 6-foot-2 Doby’s nine kills and five blocks, and 15 serving points from Sarah Kott.

“Sarah is a great player, sort of stepping out of Sydney’s shadows,” Harvest Christian coach Kim Floyd said.

Harvest Christian had three kills apiece from Chloe Corbett and Ericka Manusos, while Jordan Sollars (12 assists) and Katelyn Floyd (seven assists) also contributed for the Lions.

“I think we just needed to get into the groove of regionals,” Doby said. “It’s the first day for us, we just were slow getting started but we’re okay.”

For Elgin Academy (15-14-1), the end wasn’t too bitter.

“It’s been the highest point for volleyball at Elgin Academy,” coach Rich Witkowski said. “We’ve had an excellent season.”

The Hilltoppers’ 15 wins represented a school record.

Brigitte Keslinke and Alysson Wittmeyer recorded two kills apiece and Kaitlyn Pearson an ace for the Hilltoppers.

Westminster Christian coach Kathy Ramos thinks her team needs to keep the faith to upset Harvest Christian on Thursday.

“Our biggest obstacle is somehow mental,” she said. “We have the talent to beat them. We can hit, serve, but when we go against them we start playing tentative and then move back and we fall apart.

“We have to come out mentally strong and believe we can win.”

Junior middle hitter Claire Speweik did in Alden-Hebron with her serving and hitting. She had one spike so hard that it deflected off a Giants player and up into the weight room-balcony at Westminster.

“That’s a first for us,” Ramos said.

Speweik, an All-Northeastern Athletic Conference player, had three aces in the first set and recorded all seven of her kills for the night in the second game. Teammate Savannah Dutcher was a force at the net all night with eight kills.

“Savannah has stepped it up all season,” Ramos said. “She’s been a big presence up there and has gone over 80 blocks. She’s a big part of what we’re doing in the front row.”

Thursday’s final starts at 6 p.m., with the winner advancing across the border to play in the Harvest Christian Sectional next week.

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