Girls Volleyball: Postseason ride ends for Harvest Christian AcademyHarvest Christian's Sarah Kott, Katelyn Floyd and Kali Cramer (left to right) react after losing to Dakota on Saturday. | John Konstantaras~For Sun-Times Media
While Dakota High School players celebrated their River Ridge Class 1A Supersectional victory on one side of the court Saturday, a group of Harvest Christian Academy fans who traveled more than two hours west for the match encircled their huddled team on the other side.
They began chanting, “Har-vest, Har-vest,” in support of the first-year Illinois High School Association team that nearly made it to state on its first try.
Dakota beat the team from the small private Elgin west side school, 25-13, 25-15 in Elizabeth to advance to Friday’s state semifinals.
“It’s been an amazing season,” said Lions senior setter/rightside Kali Cramer. “I’m so happy to have been a part of this team.”
The Lions, who finished 25-12, ran up against a talented 39-1 team that quickly turned both games into runaways behind star 5-foot-11 sophomore outside hitter Sarah Thompson.
“They had a fantastic game,” said Harvest Christian’s own star sophomore, 6-foot-1 middle blocker Sydney Doby. “I’ll give them credit for that.
“They’re a great team and I don’t think we played to our full ability, though. Honestly, I think we kind of fell apart.”
Thompson’s hitting, an inability to handle the Indians’ serving, and possibly even some stage fright in front of the large, raucous, and heavily pro-Indians crowd all proved the Elgin team’s undoing.
“It took us out of our games,” Harvest Christian coach Kim Floyd said after her team failed to become the only team to make state in their first year of IHSA competition since four-class team sports began in 2007-08. “They were just fabulous. They have two outsides who are just so solid and we struggled with unforced errors.
“And when you’re playing at this level you have to minimize those.”
Nine of the Indians’ points in the first set came off Lions mistakes. Thompson made up for much of the rest of the scoring with eight kills and an ace. The Lions trailed just 8-7, then rallied back within 12-10 after a four-point Dakota run. But Jennifer Lane’s kill and an ace by Jaycee Cleaver started the 13-3 run the Indians used to close the first set.
In the second set, Harvest Christian never led. A 10-3 run for a 14-6 edge gave Dakota the boost it needed to coast home and earn its state semifinal berth against Waterloo Gibault.
Doby had eight kills, four blocks, four digs and an ace on the day, while Cramer had three kills and six assists.
“We’re full of juniors and sophomores and freshmen, and I think we’ll have another chance to have a great season next year,” said Doby of the roster that included only two seniors — Cramer and Hannah Depledge.
Added Floyd: “It was our first time in the IHSA and when you say the next level, now they know. It was a great run for the first year. I’m so proud of them for the way they played their hearts out.”