Tall order: RHS volleyball’s season ends with regional final loss to Fairfield
Updated: Oct 28, 2020
Rogers, Chipps, healthy Conley star in 5-game win over Judson in semifinals
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
LAKEVILLE –- They overcame an adversity-filled start to their season due to a once-in-a-century coronavirus and some lineup changes, differing roles and tough injuries.
But alas, not even the Rochester volleyball team could overcome Fairfield, who
beat the Lady Zs 25-12, 25-21, 25-23 to win the Class 2A LaVille regional title at Dale E. Cox Gymnasium Saturday night.
Fairfield (20-14) will play Wapahani at Logansport High School at 4 p.m. Saturday in the semistate, which will be a rematch of last year’s semistate.
RHS finished the season 17-8. This marked the second straight season that Fairfield knocked them out of the state tournament. Fairfield beat RHS in five games in the 2019 regional semifinals.
“They were a big team,” RHS coach Erin Leap said of Fairfield. “They were tall. They were very good blockers. Every single one of them could hit. They were just a really good team. And their defense was really phenomenal as well. They were just everywhere. They didn’t let anything hit the floor.”
Hannah Houston added eight kills, Alexa Kouskousakis had six kills, and Emily Hughes had five kills for RHS.
Molly Conley had two aces, 10 digs and 28 assists. Dalanie Chipps had 14 digs and 16 serves received.
Lexy Thomas had nine serves received, and Kylie Houston had eight serves received.
“I wish that our team would have used the block a little bit more,” Leap said. “We hit into the block a lot. We talk all the time about wiping it off of the hands and hitting it high off fingertips and stuff like that, and we just weren’t able to execute that.”
All RHS fall sports teams had to overcome a three-week long coronavirus-related shutdown from Aug. 3-24. RHS started 0-3 but had an eight-match winning streak going before they ran into Fairfield. They crammed 21 regular season matches in a 32-day sprint of a regular season.
“The girls rallied and turned it all around,” Leap said. “We ended up switching up our goals and were able to meet a goal of coming in second in TRC and ended up with a winning record for the most part, going to regional finals. They didn’t give up, and they didn’t give in. We just kept going – one more step, one more step.
“I was just super proud of them. I couldn’t be more proud of the way that our season ended from the way it started.”
Chipps, Rogers, Conley, Hannah Houston, Carlee Blackburn and Chloe Harris all graduate. Chipps and Harris were key to the back line, and Rogers and Hannah Houston were the team’s top two hitters. Conley was a three-year setter. Blackburn was one of the team’s most improved players before an ankle injury prevented her from playing in the state tournament.
“I always think our future is bright,” Leap said. “We’ve got a good feeder system. I think that all of those players will be greatly missed. I will miss the people. … You can’t replace people, but you have to replace positions. But we have a group of people in here that I’ve been with for a long time, and I have a lot of confidence in.
“So I’m hoping that we’ll jump back into it again and be able to perform Zebra volleyball hopefully like we have for a long time.”
RHS beats North Judson in 5, reaches regional final
The Lady Zs began their day with a 25-23, 25-19, 18-25, 20-25, 15-7 win over North Judson in the semifinal at LaVille.
Rogers led RHS with 16 kills, five aces and six blocks. Hannah Houston had nine kills, and Hughes had eight. Chipps had 26 digs and 28 serves received.
Conley, who suffered an ankle injury against Bremen in the sectional final a week earlier and didn’t practice until the day before the regional, had 22 digs and 36 assists. Kylie Houston had 17 digs and 16 serves received.
Harris and Howdeshell had 11 digs each. Harris added 12 serves received, and Howdeshell had 15 serves received.
After the Lady Jays overcame an 0-2 deficit to force a fifth game, RHS jumped out to an 8-1 lead in Game 5.
Rogers and Conley had stuff blocks to start the game. At 2-1, Rogers took over – a kill, a kill, a stuff block, a tip and then another kill. A Conley ace made it 8-1, and after Chipps couldn’t put a deep free ball over, North Judson’s Abigail Chambers missed on an attack wide to the right and Lilliann Frasure missed on an attack wide left.
North Judson called timeout, but on the first point after the timeout, Rogers dropped in a perfectly placed ace in front of the back row to make it 11-2.
“I think they just realized that they had to dig deep,” Leap said. “In those 15-point games, sometimes you get behind, and we didn’t want to be a come-from-behind team today. … They had the energy, and they went out and pursued it.”
North Judson would hang within 13-7 before a Hannah Houston kill and a Delaney Martin kill error into the net sent RHS to the final eight of Class 2A.
RHS needed three game points to nail down Game 1 before finally securing it when North Judson was called for a net violation.
RHS was up 20-18 in Game 2 when North Judson’s Lindley Martin missed on a serve into the net and a Hannah Houston tip made it 22-18.
North Judson called timeout, but Harris dropped in an ace to make it 23-18. A Chambers kill off the block made it 23-19, but Frasure missed on a kill wide left, and Hughes put down a kill off the block.
RHS led 18-17 in Game 3 before the Lady Jays scored the final eight points with setter Tabitha Pop serving.
Two Harris aces and a Rogers kill helped RHS even Game 4 at 13-13 before North Judson went on a 10-3 run.
“Honestly we were kind of upset a little bit with ourselves,” Rogers said of the mood in the huddle between Games 4 and 5. “We were making mistakes that we shouldn’t have. We got a little sloppy, but we realized we had to come out on top this game and just come out strong and finish strong from point one to point 15.”
North Judson was noteworthy for their back row attacks.
“It was unusual because that’s not what I scouted at all,” Leap said. “Maybe that was part of their strategy. I don’t know. I honestly would rather see the ball coming from the back row than the front row. So I’m not really sure. I’m wondering if it was a little bit out of system.”
North Judson also didn’t make a substitution the entire match. Meanwhile, RHS used Chipps at libero and substituted liberally. They used 10 players overall.
“We had to switch it up a lot to hitting and tipping and just find their weak holes,” Rogers said. “That’s what really helped us at the end.”
Leap didn’t know Conley would be available until 4:30 p.m. Friday.
“It’s more the energy on the court to just have her because Kous ( Kouskousakis) did a great job filling her spot, but I think just the energy of having another senior on the court just really help us all connect more,” Rogers added.
Final: Fairfield def. Rochester, 25-12, 25-21, 25-23
Lexy Thomas - 2 kills, 1 dig, 9 serves received; Emily Hughes - 5 kills, 3 digs; Kaitlin Rogers - 11 kills, 1 ace, 2 blocks, 2 digs, 3 serves received; Molly Conley - 1 kill, 2 aces, 10 digs, 28 assists; Alexa Kouskousakis - 6 kills, 6 digs, 4 serves received; Hannah Houston - 8 kills, 3 digs; Kylie Houston - 1 ace, 7 digs, 8 serves received; Dalanie Chipps - 14 digs, 16 serves received; Chloe Harris - 6 digs, 1 assist, 6 serves received; Emma Howdeshell - 3 digs, 7 serves received
Semifinal: Rochester def. North Judson, 25-23, 25-19, 18-25, 20-25, 15-7
Dalanie Chipps - 1 kill, 26 digs, 2 assists, 28 serves received; Lexy Thomas - 5 kills, 2 blocks, 2 digs, 1 assist, 5 serves received; Emily Hughes - 8 kills, 3 digs; Kaitlin Rogers - 16 kills, 5 aces, 6 blocks, 5 digs; Molly Conley - 4 kills, 3 aces, 2 blocks, 22 digs, 36 assists; Alexa Kouskousakis - 5 kills, 1 block, 3 digs, 5 serves received; Hannah Houston - 9 kills, 2 blocks, 1 dig; Chloe Harris - 3 aces, 11 digs, 12 serves received; Kylie Houston - 17 digs, 16 serves received; Emma Howdeshell - 11 digs, 15 serves received
Watch Rochester vs North Judson Here:
Watch Rochester vs Fairfield Here: