Girls volleyball: Conant's return to court successful in win over Hoffman Estates

  • Conant's Danielle Smith and Emily Ytsen block the ball back to Hoffman Estates' Niyah McAllister in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday.

    Conant's Danielle Smith and Emily Ytsen block the ball back to Hoffman Estates' Niyah McAllister in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Hoffman Estates' Niyah McAllister slams a point against Conant's Danielle Smith in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021.

    Hoffman Estates' Niyah McAllister slams a point against Conant's Danielle Smith in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Conant's Farah Cisse hits against Hoffman Estates' Abby Major and Niyah McAllister in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021.

    Conant's Farah Cisse hits against Hoffman Estates' Abby Major and Niyah McAllister in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Conant's Gianna Spekta underhands the ball over the net against Hoffman Estates' Sarah Hazenfield in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021.

    Conant's Gianna Spekta underhands the ball over the net against Hoffman Estates' Sarah Hazenfield in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Conant's Danielle Smith hits against Hoffman Estates' Abby Major and Niyah Mcallister in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021.

    Conant's Danielle Smith hits against Hoffman Estates' Abby Major and Niyah Mcallister in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Hoffman Estates' Nora Rakoci reaches for her shot against Conant's Gianna Spekta in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021.

    Hoffman Estates' Nora Rakoci reaches for her shot against Conant's Gianna Spekta in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Hoffman Estates' Abby Major hits past Conant's Gianna Spekta in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021.

    Hoffman Estates' Abby Major hits past Conant's Gianna Spekta in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Hoffman Estates' Emma Essex slides to save a back row shot from Conant in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021.

    Hoffman Estates' Emma Essex slides to save a back row shot from Conant in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Conant's Gianna Spekta gets the ball past Hoffman Estates' Isabelle Cochran in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021.

    Conant's Gianna Spekta gets the ball past Hoffman Estates' Isabelle Cochran in a girls volleyball match in Hoffman Estates Monday, April 5, 2021. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/5/2021 9:23 PM

Playing only its third match of the season and first in two weeks due to COVID-19 protocol, Conant's girls volleyball team slowly warmed up to the task on Monday night and came away with a 25-22, 25-15 triumph at Hoffman Estates.

"We'd been off for a while so it was nice to get back and play," said Cougars senior right side hitter Danielle Smith, who put down a career-high 10 kills. "We started out kind of slow but gained our momentum and finished strong."

 

The powerful ending saw Smith put down a nifty tip followed by back-to-back blocks by junior middle Emily Ytsen to end the Mid-Suburban West match.

"I think it came down to our serve receive," said Conant coach Drewann Pancratz, whose team (2-1, 2-1) will play three more times this week and four next week to complete MSL West play.

"I think those girls (Jiya Patel, Mackenzie Lunkes, Raelene Roque and Franny Griseta) stepped up with some great passes that allowed us to run our offense and Danielle had a hot hand. Overall, it was a real team effort with everyone playing together."

Juniors Farah Cisse added 6 kills and Jessie Hairrell 3 while sophomore Gianna Spetka handed out 20 assists. Patel had 9 digs.

"Conant went on too many runs in the second set," said Hoffman coach Pat Moran. "That was kind of the difference. They kind of ran their offense a little more than us. Missed serves kept hurting us. It's hard to beat a good team when you can't maintain momentum."

Hoffman (2-6, 0-6) was led by senior Nora Rakoci's 4 kills and 14 assists from junior setter Charlotte McGrath.

"I thought the first set was a good volleyball match," Moran added. "Props to coach Pancratz. I thought she did a really good job having her girls ready after being off for two weeks."

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An ace by Cisse (4 aces for the match) tied Set 1 at 10-10 before the Cougars got back-to-back kills by Smith. Another ace by Cisse made it 13-10 when Moran called for his first time out. Cisse came right back with another ace for a 14-10 lead.

But Hoffman dug in and reeled off 5 straight points for a 15-14 lead before a lift call tied it at 15.

The set was then tied at 16, 17 and 18 before a block by Hairrell, ace by Lunkes and hitting error gave Conant a 21-18 lead, forcing Moran to call his second time out. Smith's ace put the visitors ahead 24-21.

Hoffman held off one set point on a kill from senior Sarah Hazenfeld before the Cougars won on a hitting error.

"Credit goes to Pat (Moran)," Pancratz added. "He does an excellent job with that program. He really gets those girls ready. Every time we play them, we know we have to be ready."

In Set 2, Brianna Spekta's back-to-back aces put Conant ahead to stay at 6-4.

Back-to-back aces by Cisse gave Conant a 14-8 lead which grew to 17-9 on an ace from Patel and 20-12 on an ace from Griseta before Ytsen's back-to-back blocks ended the match.

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