In conference games between ranked opponents, the team that makes the fewest errors usually wins -- and that was certainly the case Thursday at the Sports and Wellness Center at Harper College.
The Hawks battled Rock Valley, No. 2 in the most recent NJCAA Division III women's volleyball rankings, before the mistakes caught up in a 3-1 loss in North Central Community College Conference play.
Harper was able to take the first set 25-23 after overcoming a 3-point deficit.
"It is going to take that effort on our part every game," said Hawks coach Bob Vilsoet.
"We have been letting teams dictate our first game," Rock Valley coach Abby Jenkins coach said.
The Golden Eagles came back to dominate 25-17 in a mistake-filled second set by the Hawks.
"We stuck to our game plan," Jenkins said. "We tried to push our middle and be aggressive."
That didn't go unnoticed by the Hawks.
"They were good defensively," said Harper freshman outside hitter Erinn Hellweg said of the Rock Valley defense.
With the Hawks trailing 21-9, defensive specialist Kelly Spychala (Elk Grove) put on quite a serving display.
Spychala (16-for-17, 1 ace) was able to pull Harper within 22-16 before Harper eventually dropped the set. "We just couldn't close the gap," Vilsoet said.
A pair of fresh faces helped lead the Harper offense. Hellweg, a Wauconda product, had a double-double (13 kills, 12 blocks) and Veronica Dabrowski (Rolling Meadows) added 9 kills and 10 digs.
"We found places where they weren't," Hellweg said.
The Hawks showed some semblance of bouncing back in set three, cutting into an early 9-3 lead and forcing a 9-9 tie. But again, Rock Valley was able to reassert itself.