Perhaps it was inevitable that the 2 Rockets would meet in the finals of the Hampshire Volleyball Tournament.
Burlington Central and Richmond-Burton both went undefeated in pool play and won their semifinal matches in 2 straight games.
And it was no surprise that the final match was tight all the way. But in the end, the Central Rockets prevailed, 25-22, 25-23 Saturday. Central overcame a 19-15 deficit in Game 2 to clinch the match.
Richmond got on a roll with All-Everything Ali Frantti at the service line. Frantti served 9 straight points, including 3 aces, to put Richmond in control.
But BC (17-7), buoyed by the return of Lauren Wiltsie from a meniscus tear, fought back. A kill by Wiltsie made it 24-23, and a kill by Mackenna Jensen provided the game winner.
"When we've been down this year, we've always bounced back," said Central coach Marv Leavitt. "I'm proud of our team."
Wiltsie had 13 kills for BC, which beat Richmond for the second time this season. Jenna Schudel had 5 kills and Makenna Jensen added 3.
For the tournament, Wiltsie had 32 kill and 11 aces, Jensen had 27 kills and Schudel 22.
Allie O'Reilly had 22 digs against Richmond to break her own school record of 1,173. She had 64 digs in the tournament as Central didn't lose a game in 5 matches, beating South Elgin, Woodstock, Harvest Christian and Hampshire before the title match. Maddy Berry had 67 assists on the day for Central.
Frantti had 9 kills to easily lead R-B in that category.
For Wiltsie, it was a relief just to get back on the court.
"It was hard (not playing), but as a captain I have to support my team," she said. "I really did. I did some things on my own and I tried my best to get back on the court."
Central never trailed in Game 1. The Rockets jumped out to a 6-0 lead, getting 5 points with Caitlin Seibert at the service line. Richmond fought back to tie it at 9, but Central then scored 4 straight points to go ahead for good.
"We competed," Leavitt said. "That's what we wanted to do. When you play against one of the best players in the nation, that's what you have to do. You can't sit back and say, 'Give it to her.' Everything she gets, she's got to earn. And she earned a lot."
Burlington Central advanced by downing the host Whip-Purs, 25-11, 25-12, in the semifinals, while R-B got by Harvest Christian in 2 tight games.
Class 1A Harvest Christian, an Elite Eight qualifier the past two years, finished third in the tournament. The Lions (13-8) beat Woodstock, South Elgin and Hampshire and lost to Central and Richmond.
Sydney Doby had 43 kills, 13 aces, 6 blocks and 43 digs to lead Harvest, while Jade Martinez (94 assists, 29 digs, 6 aces), Mikayla Robinson (20 kills, 10 blocks), Chloe Corbett (22 kills) and Shayna Manusos (31` digs, 3 aces) also contributed.
South Elgin also went 3-2 in the tournament to win the consolation title. The Storm beat Rockford Auburn and Woodstock twice but lost to Central and Harvest Christian.
Bri Reum had 26 kills, 17 digs and 2 blocks to lead the Storm, while Ashley Oandasan (12 kills, 39 digs, 8 aces), Adrianna Loiacono (50 assists, 7 kills, 5 digs), Renee Rush (24 kills, 32 digs, 5 aces), Alyssa Miner (9 kills, 12 blocks), Sarah Hallas (13 kills, 11 digs) and Katie Innis (52 digs) also contributed.
Hampshire took fourth place, beating Rockford Auburn and Marengo but losing to Richmond, Central and Harvest.
Caitlin Conlon (30 kills), Erin Foss (18 kills, 39 digs), Brittany Laffin (60 assists) and Julianna Gass (70 digs) led the Whip-Purs.
At Mother McAuley: Cary-Grove and Huntley each went 2-3 at the Asics Challenge at Mother McAuley.
Cary-Grove defeated Stagg and Nazareth and lost to Sandburg, Notre Dame and Sutherland (NY), while Huntley beat Mercy (NY), and Memorial Catholic (Wis.) and lost to Joliet Catholic, Mother McAuley and Downers Grove North.
Kayli Trausch (30 blocks, 40 kills), Abby Schebel (38 kills), Meghan Seymour (112 assists), Delaney Bayer (47 digs), Sarah Graham (42 kills) and Karisa Wilczynski (9 aces) led the Trojans.
Huntley was paced by Kelsey DeSWulf (95 assists, 13 kills, 15 digs), Emily Westermeyer (38 kills, 29 digs), Rachel Shores (59 digs), Erin Lyman (33 kills, 17 digs) and Eilish Reagan (29 digs, 6 aces).
John Radtke contributed to this report