COAL CITY — In a senior-night match that had featured numerous lead changes and a cumulative total of 70 points from each team, a Coal City senior fittingly broke the tie.
Donjetta Shabani served up three quick points to break a 22-22 deadlock in the third game and complete a 25-23, 23-25, 25-22 Interstate Eight Conference West girls volleyball win for the Lady Coalers. At 7-2, they remain alive in the conference race; 6-3 Seneca was, in effect, eliminated with the loss.
After the Lady Irish took a 22-21 lead in the third game, a Claire Smith sideout kill set Shabani up at the line. She started with an ace, and her second point came when a controversial carry was called on the Lady Irish. Shabani's third point of the sequence — and her match-high eighth total of the night —was sealed when what was effectively a 50-50 ball that hit the net and sailed high into the air just landed on Seneca's side.
"Well, I guess you can't write it better than that," Coal City coach Michael Lanoue said of a senior serving up the winning points against a rival like Seneca. "We knew it was going to be a tough match, but we were able to pull it out."
Coal City's leads were more frequent and larger than Seneca's throughout the match, but the Lady Coalers never led by more than four points in the first game. When a Kassie Aldridge ace made it 14-10 Seneca, Lady Irish coach Karen Raney called a timeout, and Seneca responded with four quick points in succession to get even.
An Anna Baker sideout kill gave the Lady Irish their final lead of the first game at 21-20. Coal City junior Emily Halliday took over from there, tallying a sideout kill and promptly killing three straight service points for Hannah Boresi. Seneca answered with a Danielle Hauch sideout kill and a Madison Wyss service point before a Halliday kill ended the drama.
Halliday finished the first game with seven kills but had just three more in the final two games. Her teammates filled the void. Led by Claire Smith's 11, the Lady Coalers finished with a 39-28 advantage in kills. Aldridge finished the night with 32 assists.
"We needed our girls to back her up because Seneca started overloading on their block on Emily," Lanoue said. "Kassie did a fantastic job of distributing the ball."
Seneca fell behind 10-4 early in the second game, but it held the Lady Coalers to no points on their next six serves as stormed back for an 18-16 lead. The teams remained within two points of each other the rest of the way, and the Lady Coalers tied the score at 23-23 on a Smith kill. Hauch set the ball to an open area on Coal City's side to restore the lead to Seneca, and a hitting error clinched the winning point for server Chelsie McCormick.
"Their offense is very strong. They run it through different players, and they were extremely effective doing it," Raney said of the Lady Coalers. "Overall I thought we played a very strong match. We have a group of girls that is very disappointed with the loss because of the way they kept fighting. It took a lot of leadership for us to fight back the way we did."
Nicole Pihl tallied seven kills to lead Seneca, which got six from Aspen Stuedemann and Lexi Wilkinson. Wyss paced the Lady Irish in aces with three and in assists with 17.
Coal City def. Seneca,
Neeka Garcia slammed down five kills and Lauren Hickle had four for Seneca.