Regional volleyball

Prairie Central entered Monday’s regional volleyball contest against Pontiac at a slight disadvantage, but the Hawks were able to overcome early difficulties and overpowered the Indians in three sets to advance.
    Prairie Central topped the Tribe 18-25, 25-22, 25-16 and will take on Manteno in tonight’s semifinal round. The Indians’ season ends with a 12-21 record.
    It was the third set when Pontiac seemed to collapse, and it seemed this was done over a simple matter of serve receive. Lexie Rieck stood at the service line after Elly Haberkorn delivered a kill for a sideout for the Hawks. Rieck proceeded to rattle off eight straight points, including four aces in a five-serve stretch.
    “The serving kind of stepped up in that third game,” said PC head coach Kristin Hinz. “They just couldn’t get it back to us.”
    “Credit Prairie Central — tough serves when they needed them; really kept our kids off balance,” Pontiac head coach Kelly Audia said.
    That run made it 10-1 and Prairie Central seemed destined to overcome the loss in the first set and live to play another day. It was 16-6 when Audia used his final timeout of the set. The Hawks were in a good mood, as witnessed by the dancing in the huddle.
    Prairie Central was feeling it. Even with PTHS managing to trim the margin to six, at 18-12 after a Madison Wright kill, the Hawks were comfortably in the driver’s seat.
    “We also made some silly mistakes and weren’t playing as smart, but when you have a lead, I guess it’s alright to make those mistakes,” Hinz said.
    A few errors crept into the match down the stretch, but Prairie Central was not really challenged at the end.
    That wasn’t the case early in the match when the Hawks had trouble with its makeshift starting lineup. Hinz was forced to go to a different starting lineup than normal and Pontiac was able to gain the early edge.
    Cam Feddern was strong early and ended up leading the Indians at the net on offense and defense. She had a couple of kills in a Rebecca Rich service run that gave PTHS an 11-4 lead in the opening set.
    Neither team was able to really establish anything, even after the regulars started to filter in for the Hawks. It was similar to prize fight where the combatants traded punches.
    It stayed that way until the middle of the second set, when Prairie Central finally took control.
    Natalie Graf recorded a block and then a kill to start a service burst from Lindsey Hari. Hari served an ace after a timeout that made it 12-7. A kill from Haberkorn, a wide Pontiac attack, an ace from Merryn Krenz and a long PTHS attack made it 16-8.
    The Indians got to within 17-13 after an ace from Jordyn Fox and a kill from Wright. The margin closed to 19-17 after a Rich ace, and to 20-18 on a two-hand hit by the Hawks.
    Finally, Feddern delivered a successful attack that drew Pontiac to within one, at 21-20, with Wright serving for a chance at the tie.
    Krenz ended that threat with a kill off a set-push across the net. But Feddern added another kill to make it 22-21 and give the Tribe the serve.
    This time Haberkorn rose to the occasion and blocked a Hannah Legner attack. This came after Wright had dug up a couple hard attacks by the Hawks during the play.
    Haberkorn ended the set with a hard kill.
    “We were able to rally back hard,” Hinz said. “They came out ready to play, especially going into that third game; they stepped it up.”
    Amber Graf came off the bench to record 7 kills as the Hawks collected 27 for the night. Natalie Graf contributed 6 and Haberkorn had 5 kills. Hari had 4 kills and 3 blocks.
    “They’re not a 20-win team for nothing. That group of seniors is really good,” Audia said of the Hawks.
    Feddern finished with 7 kills and 4 blocks for the Indians. Wright contributed 6 kills and Rich had 4 kills. Maddi Stark and Mia Brady each had 9 assists and Cassidy Ringle came up with 9 digs.
    “I applaud our players for getting the job done,” Audia said. “Our program needs to continue to take steps and get better each time we step on the floor.”