A heartbreaking loss, a nail-biting victory and a blowout was the formula Morris used to defeat Sycamore on Thursday in Northern Illinois Big 12 conference girls volleyball.
The Redskins prevailed 24-26, 28-26, 25-15, and they had every bit as difficult a time in the first two games as the scores indicate.
They led 24-22 in the first game before Sycamore reeled off four straight points to stun them, and in the second, Morris failed on three different opportunities to put the Spartans away before capitalizing on a fourth.
A four-point service run by Austin Thompson gave the Redskins a 12-7 lead in the third game, and they never looked back.
Sycamore failed to generate points on six of its final seven trips to the service line as the Morris lead remained comfortable.
“We cleaned up our mistakes, and that was what we kept telling them in one and two is that we were losing ourselves,” Morris coach Jackie Litwiller said. “[Morris assistant] coach [Josh Williamson] said, ‘I think if we clean up our mistakes, we’ll [win by] seven points.’ He was pretty close.”
Sycamore maintained small leads early in Game 1, with a three-point service run by Taya Torkelson giving Morris its first lead at 13-12.
Some back-and-forth play produced a 22-22 score, from which a JoAnna Nowicki sideout kill and a Torkelson ace put Morris on the brink of victory.
Matelyn Ann Hayes’ kill returned the serve to Sycamore, and Hayes then served up an ace in between points made possible by a hitting error and a carry by Morris.
Game 2 was similarly close throughout, with Sycamore leading 23-21 when an errant serve gave the Redskins an opening.
Nowicki served Morris to a 24-23 edge, at which point six successive sideouts kept the Spartans alive and the Redskins from trailing.
Kaylin Korte finally served up the winning point, providing a kill from the back row on it.
“The first game, I and everybody wasn’t on top of our game. As a team, we didn’t play fully,” Torkelson said. “I think the second game we had more blocks and we talked a lot more. We were communicating, and I think it just worked.”
Along with Thompson’s four-point run, the Redskins got two points each from Korte, Torkelson and Morgan Hussey during the third game.
Thompson then ended the match with a three-point run. Sycamore had a total of four service points during the final game.
“That was a full team effort tonight. Full team,” Litwiller said.
“I mean, from the bench to the players that went in ... it was just phenomenal. It was awesome to watch and coach.”