PBL seventh-grade volleyball claims IESA Class 3A regional title with three-set win over Hoopeston Area

PAXTON -- En route to reaching Tuesday's title match, the Hoopeston Area and Paxton-Buckley-Loda seventh-grade volleyball teams each went into the IESA Class 3A Paxton Regional as underdogs.
Each team reached the title match via victories over higher-seeded teams in the semifinals the previous Saturday, as third-seeded PBL bested second-seeded Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and Hoopeston Area took care of top-seeded Georgetown Mary Miller.
En route to its 20-25, 25-19, 25-16 victory in the regional championship match over Hoopeston Area, PBL's underdog story started in the December prior to the start of the 2018 season.
“Some of them didn't know any of the rules of volleyball," PBL seventh-grade coach Kara Harrison said. "We were off to a slow start just learning the game and learning to work together with each other. We had a rocky road with some teamwork along the way, trusting each other and learning to play the game the way it's supposed to be played.”
The Panthers went into the Twin County Conference Tournament, held Feb. 17, with a 7-7 record. They left the tournament with a third-place trophy.
“They started to put it all together," Harrison said. "They tasted a little success there, and I knew that we could do something, and they worked hard, and I'm super-duper proud. It's very exciting. I'm super-proud of these girls.”
Similar to its 2018 season, Tuesday's regional title match started with some adversity.
The Panthers (14-8) erased a 2-0 deficit in game one with a three-point run capped by a go-ahead ace from Cadence Jones. After Hoopeston Area went back on top at 6-4 and regained the lead at 7-6, a tip over by Losa Suaava tied the game at 7-7.
An ace by Averi Garrett tied the game at 10-10 before PBL took an 11-10 lead.
After the Cornjerkers reclaimed the lead at 13-11, the Panthers went on an 8-0 run.
An ace by Jones made the score 16-13, a kill by Emily Robidoux increased PBL's lead to 17-13 and another ace by Jones extended the advantage to 19-13.
From there, however, Hoopeston Area went on a 12-1 run to clinch game one.
“We had a little bit of nerves in the first set," Harrison said. "(Assistant coach Kelli Vaughn) had a little chit chat with them while I was submitting the lineup. She reminded them that there had been a lot of other teams who won the regional that lost the first set. 
"If they could pull it off, (PBL) can do it. They started getting a little enthusiastic and more comfortable playing together with each other, and took it from there.”
After the Cornjerkers scored the first point, a kill by Gracelyn Greenburg gave PBL a 2-1 lead. From there, the Panthers scored the next four points as a kill by Jones extended the team's lead to 6-1.
Suaava recorded a kill to make the score 9-3 before PBL extended its lead to 10-3. Another kill by Greenburg made the score 13-6, a tip by Robidoux made it 15-8 and an ace by Garrett extended the lead to 16-8.
After a 6-0 run by the Cornjerkers, a tip by Greenburg made the score 17-14 before PBL's lead was extended to 18-14.
After two points by Hoopeston Area and a sideout by the Panthers, three straight aces by Greenburg exended PBL's lead to 22-16 before the advantage was further extended to 23-16.
From there, the Panthers scored two of the next five points to clinch game two. 
Two aces by Jones helped PBL gain an early 3-0 lead in game three. After two straight points by the Cornjerkers, the Panthers went on a 10-0 run to extend their lead to 13-2.
Two aces by Greenburg made the score extended the lead from 6-2 to 8-2 before a kill by Suaava made the score 9-2 and another ace by Greenburg made the score 12-2.
A sideout by the Cornjerkers was followed by a 4-0 run by PBL that extended its advantage to 17-3.
After three points by the Cornjerkers, a sideout by PBL made the score 18-6 before a kill by Suaava extended the team's lead to 19-6.
Three more points by Hoopeston Area cut its deficit to 19-9 before PBL sided out. An ace by Suaava and a kill by Greenburg extended the Panthers' lead to 22-9 before another point by PBL made the score 23-9.
The Cornjerkers then scored seven straight points to cut their deficit to 23-16. 
“We got too excited, but we called timeout and reminded them, 'We can do this. We can put it together. Just play the game the way you know it's supposed to be played,' and they did it," Harrison said.
The Panthers scored the next two points to clinch game three, and the match.
Greenburg finished the match leading PBL in kills with eight and aces with six while Jones had six aces as well as two kills and Suaava and Trixie Johnson each had four kills. 
Robidoux had three kills and Garrett had two aces.
They will play in the Hoopeston Area Sectional at 6:30 p.m. next Monday at John Greer Grade School. PBL will face either Beecher or Clifton J.L. Nash, who will face each other in the Onarga Iroquois West Regional title game on Wednesday.
“We're looking forward to practice tomorrow," Harrisons said. "We'll keep working. We'll keep improving for Monday's game.”
PBL def. Hoopeston Area 20-25, 25-19, 25-16
At Paxton
For PBL (14-8), kills: Gracelyn Greenburg 8, Losa Suaava 4, Trixie Johnson 4, Emily Robidoux 3, Cadence Jones 2; aces: Greenburg 6, Jones 6, Averi Garrett 2; service points: Jones 22, Greenburg 17, Robidoux 10, Garrett 8, Suaava 7, Johnson 5, Hope Watts.


Categories (3):Prep Sports, Volleyball, Sports


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