Unsinkable, even with Molly down: Despite injured setter, RHS beats Bremen to win sectional
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
BREMEN –- Rochester senior volleyball setter Molly Conley was in pain on the volleyball court at Bremen High School Saturday.
She lied on the court, clutching her injured ankle.
RHS was clinging to a 16-15 lead in Game 1 of their Class 2A, Sectional 35 final against the host Lady Lions.
Alexa Kouskousakis came in to replace Conley. She gave assistance to a team that was without the team leader in assists.
And they also still had Kaitlin Rogers, Hannah Houston and Emily Hughes.
Given all that, not even an injury to one of the Lady Zs’ most important and experienced players could prevent them from winning back-to-back sectional titles.
RHS went on to beat Bremen 25-21, 25-14, 25-10 for their 22nd sectional title in school history.
“They were awesome,” RHS coach Erin Leap said when asked how the team responded to Conley’s injury. “They responded very well. … I feel like it gave them a different focus, and so they were able to just execute everything we needed to do.”
“Amazing,” senior defender Chloe Harris said. “It feels so good to win as a senior. It’s the third sectional we’ve won since I’ve been in high school.”
“It feels pretty great,” senior libero Dalanie Chipps said. “We’ve been working at it really hard.”
Since dropping down from Class 3A to Class 2A in the fall of 2015, RHS has won five sectional titles in six years.
RHS (16-7) will carry a seven-match winning streak into this Saturday’s Class 2A LaVille regional. RHS will play North Judson in a semifinal at 10:30 a.m. Fairfield will meet Andrean in the second semifinal, and the winners return at 7 p.m. for the final.
Kouskousakis succeeded by setting up Kaitlin Rogers, Hannah Houston and Emily Hughes. Rogers had a match-high 18 kills, and Houston and Hughes had nine kills each. Rogers also had five aces and four blocks, helping RHS pull through in a tight Game 1. Houston had five blocks, helping form a front wall along with Rogers, Kouskousakis and Lexy Thomas.
Senior libero Dalanie Chipps had 15 digs. Chloe Harris had 10 serves received.
And Kouskousakis had 22 assists in Conley’s place.
“It affected me a lot because usually I was hitting, but then I had to go and set,” Kouskousakis said. “But I obviously set. On JV I do. So it wasn’t something new to me, but it wasn’t what I was used to. … When you go with older people who are more experienced, it’s a different game play.”
Leap said Kouskousakis was familiar with Conley’s role, just at another level.
“She did a nice job stepping in and taking that role. She was a 5-1 setter for our JV all year, so she was used to that position. She did a great job connecting with our hitters, and she stepped in and stepped up and did great.”
RHS was ahead 14-10 in Game 3 when they scored the final 11 points of the match.
Hughes had five kills during the run, including one off the block and into the net on match point that led to a celebration on the floor. Houston had two kills and two stuff blocks during the run.
“It feels so amazing,” Hannah Houston said.
“Pretty great,” Kylie Houston said. “We’ve worked hard for it all season.”
But the key point in the match might have been in Game 1 shortly after Conley went down and RHS leading 18-17.
Rogers had a tip and then a kill to make it 20-17. A Gretchen Willis kill made it 20-18.
Then came another Rogers kill and a Rogers ace. Thomas missed just long on a kill try, but Houston answered with a kill.
Bremen called timeout, and a Willis tip made it 23-20. But Isabella Smith was called for a double-hit, which got RHS to set point at 24-20. A Lydia Stamm kill made it 24-21 before Houston ended the game with a kill.
“That’s a big leader on our floor, and that’s a big part of our rotation, so I just think we all had to step up that extra notch,” Rogers said when asked how the team handled Conley’s injury. “And we all were thrown in different positions that we never tried before, and two new people had to be thrown in. But I think we all stepped up and did the job tonight.”
Kylie Houston said it was important to survive Game 1 after Conley’s injury.
“We just had to make it through that game and then regroup for the next one,” she said.
RHS was up 12-10 before ending Game 2 on a 13-4 run. A Rogers kill, a Rogers ace and a Houston kill put RHS one game away from a title.
“I love playing with Kaitlin and Hannah,” Harris said. “I love when they both get kills, and the whole gym just goes crazy. It’s really exciting.”
Said Leap of Rogers and Houston: “They’ve definitely ran our offense all year. Emily has stepped up and Lexy Thomas as well. They’re just doing a great job. But yes, Hannah and Kaitlin have just taken the reins, and they are our go-tos. And I’m sure that people that scout us know that, but they’re leading the team. They’re doing a great job.”
Meanwhile, Kouskousakis was mixing up her sets and stretching the width of the floor.
“I tend to switch it up a little bit, so the other side doesn’t suspect I’m going one way or the other,” Kouskousakis said.
Earlier Saturday, RHS won their semifinal match against LaVille 25-14, 25-14, 25-14. Bremen eliminated Westville 25-9, 25-18, 25-8.
Rogers had 17 kills against LaVille. Chipps had 16 digs and 12 serves received. Conley had 40 assists.
RHS played without Carlee Blackburn and Kenzie Bradley due to injury and health reasons.
Final: Rochester def. Bremen, 25-21, 25-14, 25-10
Emily Hughes - 9 kills, 1 block, 1 dig; Kaitlin Rogers - 18 kills, 5 aces, 4 blocks, 2 digs; Molly Conley - 1 kill, 3 digs, 8 assists; Hannah Houston - 9 kills, 5 blocks, 2 serves received; Dalanie Chipps - 1 ace, 15 digs, 5 serves received; Kylie Houston - 2 aces, 6 digs, 5 serves received; Alexa Kouskousakis - 1 ace, 4 blocks, 6 digs, 22 digs, 2 serves received; Lexy Thomas - 3 blocks, 2 serves received; Kylie Coleman - 2 digs, 2 serves received; Chloe Harris - 5 digs, 1 assist, 10 serves received; Emma Howdeshell - 5 digs, 1 assist, 7 serves received; Kallie Watson - 2 serves received
Semifinal: Rochester def. LaVille, 25-14, 25-14, 25-14
Dalanie Chipps - 1 kill, 16 digs, 12 serves received; Lexy Thomas - 3 kills, 3 blocks, 3 digs; Emily Hughes - 8 kills, 2 blocks, 4 digs; Kaitlin Rogers - 17 kills, 1 ace, 2 blocks, 5 digs; Alexa Kouskousakis - 3 kills, 10 digs, 1 serve received; Hannah Houston - 9 kills, 5 blocks, 1 dig, 3 serves received; Kylie Coleman - 2 aces, 1 serve received; Kylie Houston - 1 ace, 11 digs, 4 serves received; Molly Conley - 2 aces, 8 digs, 40 assists; Chloe Harris - 6 digs, 10 serves received; Emma Howdeshell - 8 digs, 4 serves received
The Rochester volleyball team beat Bremen 25-21, 25-14, 25-10 to win the Class 2A, Sectional 35 title at Bremen Saturday. RHS will play North Judson in a regional semifinal at LaVille High School at 10:30 a.m. this Saturday. Front, from left – Kallie Watson, Emma Howdeshell, Dalanie Chipps, Chloe Harris, Kylie Houston, Molly Conley, Sydney Haughs. Back – assistant coach Sarah Daulton, coach Erin Leap, JV coach Renee Durkes, Lexy Thomas, Carlee Blackburn, Emily Hughes, Kaitlin Rogers, Hannah Houston, Alexa Kouskousakis, Kylie Coleman, Kennedy Leap.