METAMORA — There were some misty eyes among the La Salle-Peru volleyball team’s 10 seniors, but there also were plenty of smiles.
The Lady Cavalier seniors saw their careers end with a 25-21, 25-19 loss to defending state champion Sterling in the Class 3A Metamora Sectional final Wednesday, but afterwards there were hugs and pictures as they celebrated the end of a successful four-year run.
“Our spirits are high,” L-P senior Emma Happ said. “We played our best and that’s the best way to go out. I played with these girls for the longest time. We’re happy we could go our playing like that.
“It was amazing playing at L-P for four years. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates or coaches to be with for four years.”
The Lady Cavs hung right with the Golden Warriors throughout the first set and appeared poise to take momentum.
With the set tied at 7-7, Kamryn Olson put down a kill, Brooke Shirley served an ace and Olson slammed down another kill to give L-P a 10-7 lead.
Sterling’s Grace Egan hit a shot that sailed out of bounds and Sterling coach Dale Dykeman was calling timeout when the official ruled the ball was touched by an L-P player.
On the next volley, an L-P shot close to the line was called out.
“We could have been up 11-7 and (Dykeman) was calling timeout,” Haberkorn said. “All of a sudden it’s 10-8 then there’s another tough call. Volleyball is a momentum game and they got some momentum from those calls. I think that changed the whole atmosphere of the first set, but it didn’t bother our mindset. We were still ready to compete.”
Brook Borum slammed down a kill to tie the set at 10-10. It was tied again at 11, 13 and 14 before another Borum kill gave the Golden Warriors the lead for good at 15-14.
Sterling extended its lead to 23-18 on an ace by Egan before the Lady Cavs made a late rally as a kill by Olson, a bump over by Olson and a kill by Happ pulled L-P within three at 24-21 before a tip by Brook Borum ended the set.
“I’m very happy with the way we played,” Haberkorn said. “I’m proud of the way this team competed all night. We never backed off. We were very aggressive and played with purpose tonight. It was an outstanding effort.
“We got some good passes and our girls had some good swings (in the first set). It wasn’t anything special we did. We moved the ball around and found some places in their defense. We made them work for every point and they made us work for every point too.”
The Golden Warriors took control of the second set early.
Brook Borum had three kills in the first eight points and two long volleys ended with kills by Sterling’s Egan and Grace Gould as the Golden Warriors took a 10-5 lead.
“They were touching us on the pins extremely well so we just wanted to push the ball to the pins with a little more tempo to stretch the middles and maybe try to find a seam,” Dykeman said. “That’s really the only adjustment we made.”
Sterling led by at least five points the rest of the way and led by as many as nine points.
“They really came for our serve receive,” Happ said about the second set. “They have very good serves and they are very smart players. They were hitting where we weren’t and playing to our weaknesses and their strengths.”
Sterling (33-6) advances to play Belvidere North (35-3) in the La Salle-Peru Super-Sectional at 6 p.m. Friday.
“It’s really great,” said Brook Borum, who had 16 kills, seven digs and three aces. “We’re one step closer to where we want to be at the end of the season, which is state. I think we’re really at our highest peak right now. Everything is going good for us right now.”
The Lady Cavs finish the season 33-4.
“Losing Marisa Guisti and other very valuable players, going into the season we were a little nervous,” Happ said. “We didn’t know what to expect. I’m very proud of how we all played and came together this year. We improved as a team and I saw improvement in each and every player.”
Wednesday’s match ended the prep careers for Olson, Happ, Arika Richardson, Anna Quesse, Alyssa Ernat, Jacey Mertel, Abby Peruba, Brooke Shirley, Hope Skoog and Paige Champlin.
“They’ve done so much for the program as student-athletes,” Haberkorn said. “It’s been a great year for them. We’re really going to miss our seniors. I can’t say enough about the things they contributed on and off the court.”
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.