Girls volleyball: Harvest Christian sweeps its way to sectional title

First-year Rockford Lutheran volleyball coach Amber Rolfzen brought her team into their Class 1A sectional final against host Harvest Christian Wednesday evening on a hot streak.

They had won four straight postseason games after having dropped seven of eight to finish out the regular season at 13-17 during which two starters were lost for the season due to injuries.

"We kind of overcame a lot for us to make it this far," said Rolfzen, a former two-time All-American at Nebraska who led the Cornhuskers to a national title in 2015 and a final four berth the following year before embarking on a four-year professional career in Europe followed by the start of her coaching career at Bradley in 2020.

"We adjusted a lot, we actually learned to play well together. I think because of that and because they knew they had to."

They would try to do that once again versus a host pride of Lions who came into the contest a perfect 12-0 on their Swaback Center home floor this fall.

Despite putting their best foot forward, it would not be enough to hold off Harvest's finishing kick as it posted a pair of 25-21 decisions.

Harvest earned its first sectional crown since 2018 and ninth in school history to earn a ticket to Friday's Pecatonica supersectional against Lanark Eastland sectional champ Galena (33-4), a 25-23, 25-13 winner over Lena-Winslow (37-3).

"Their outside (hitters) are very consistent. It was hard to get past them, but luckily we made a couple of less errors and it was fantastic (for us)," Lions coach Andy Koenscki said.

That luck found its way to Harvest (24-9) in game one where it slowly worked their way to gaining the upper hand thanks to a quartet of kills from junior Alyssa Burke that left the Lions ahead 23-19. The clinching point came on an illegal double hit by the Crusaders.

Lutheran (17-18) used a 6-1 surge in game two to eventually vault itself into a 19-18 advantage before the Lions responded with the decisive charge forward. They went on a 7-2 tear that featured kills by Burke (5 kills for the contest overall) and junior teammate Ella Schoenberg plus an ace by Burke that settled matters once and for all.

Senior Chace Welsh also added 5 kills for Harvest in the victorious effort plus a pair of assists and a block followed by junior Kenzie Weidman who chipped in a trio of kills plus an ace.

Schoenberg, who had 4 kills, 3 aces and 3 assists, spoke of her teammates' cohesiveness as a catalyst for the season they've had this far.

"I think we all just work really well together as a team. We're all really good friends and we all want it so bad. We all want to win and I think that's what really motivates us," Schoenberg said.

Tahlula Habedank (5 kills, 1 block) and Kimora Hill (4 kills, 1 assist, 1 block) paced the Crusaders' valiant effort which pleased Rolfzen.

"At the end of the day you can't be really upset. They've all adjusted and did something new and played new roles. It's always good to see how far you can go."

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