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The third-ranked Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family volleyball team proved to be too much for Elgin Public/Pope John in the Class D1 district championship match Saturday at Boone Central.
"I don't want to take anything away from Humphrey," stated EPPJ coach Tina Thiele-Blecher. "They are a very good team and we knew coming in they were a good team, but I feel like our girls maybe made them better than what they were. We might have psyched ourselves out a little bit. The (Taya) Beller girl is very hard hitting. We had her blocked a couple of times, but we didn't settle in, pass the ball and play Wolfpack ball like we can. It's tough to lose a season, but it's even tougher when you don't play your best ball to end the season."
It was a back-and-forth battle to start the match. Leading 7-6, the Lady Bulldogs went on a 7-1 run to take a 13-6 advantage.
EPPJ responded with a 6-1 run to cut the deficit to three. Kayce Kallhoff recorded two kills during the run.
Leading by three, H/LHF ended the set on an 8-1 run and captured the set, 25-15, on a Taya Beller kill.
A hot start by the Lady Bulldogs propelled them to a 25-17 set two win.
H/LHF went on a 7-0 run after surrendering the opening point and led by as much as 10 during the set.
The Lady Wolfpack chipped away at the lead, but the big hole was too much to overcome.
After two Kaylee Martinsen kills tied the score at two in the third set, the Lady Bulldogs went on a 13-3 run to claim a 15-5 lead.
EPPJ rallied to draw within five at 23-18, but H/LHF won the set, 25-17, and the match on a Lady Wolfpack error and kill by Beller.
"The girls have done that (rallied) all year and I'm very thankful for the girls," Thiele-Blecher said. "They keep working, keep digging and never give up. I really thought that third set was not going to be the prettiest one, but we battled. You have to be thankful for that and there's some life skills that have been taught."
Beller led the Lady Bulldogs collecting 15 of H/LHF’s 30 kills, and adding three aces and 18 digs. Allie Schneider had six kills, 14 digs, 20 assists and three aces, Addison Schneider contributed three kills and a block and McKenna Roelle pitched in two aces.
Martinsen led the Lady Wolfpack in kills with nine, blocks with four and added eight digs. Kallhoff accounted for five kills, seven digs and two blocks, Haley Zegers recorded four kills, 14 digs an ace and two blocks, Allyson Wemhoff tallied 14 digs and 18 assists, Anna Heilhecker had 12 digs and two aces and Grace Rittscher added five digs.
Humphrey Lindsay Holy Family (27-4) advances to the state tournament Thursday at Lincoln East.
Elgin Public/Pope John ends its season with a 21-12 record. The Lady Wolfpack had another solid season, finishing third in the Niobrara Valley Conference tournament, behind CWC and Ewing who both advanced to the state tournament with wins on Saturday, and was the district runner-up.
EPPJ graduates four seniors. Heilhecker, Martinsen, Wemhoff and Rittscher all suited up for the Lady Wolfpack one final time.
"You hate to see your seniors leave and this group is special," Thiele-Blecher concluded. "This group of four's work ethic during the summer helped develop the program. Other than Grace coming in, these girls have been in districts every year or the year we went to state on a wild card. They have a lot to be proud of. We're going to miss them tremendously and we wish them the best. We're ready for some of the younger ones to step up and take their place."
Elgin Public/Pope John 15 17 17
Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family 25 25 25
Elgin Public/Pope John - Haley Zegers 4k, 1a, 2b, 14d; Kaylee Martinsen 9k, 4b, 8d; Allyson Wemhoff 14d, 18sa; Grace Rittscher 5d; Kayce Kallhoff 5k, 2b, 7d; Harlie Bode 2k, 2b, 1d; Kirsten Krebs 1b, 2d, 1sa; Ally Selting 1d; Anna Heilhecker 2a, 12d.