NORMAL -- The opening set of Friday's IHSA Class 2A State Volleyball Tournament semifinal had the Riverdale Rams playing with excellence.
Unfortunately for the Rams, not only did Deer Creek-Mackinaw hit its peak throughout the next two games, but the Rams regressed from the strong play of that first set. The Lady Chiefs rallied for a 20-25, 25-16, 25-9 win and a spot in today's state finals.
"We wanted to get to the championship, but unfortunately, it didn't happen,'' said Riverdale coach Lisa Black, whose 33-4 squad will, instead, try to score bronze this afternoon at 12:25 when it returns to Redbird Arena to take on Albion Edwards County (35-6), which fell 25-20, 25-21 to Dakota (37-4) in Friday's Final Four opener.
"The first game, that was my team for sure. The third game, we didn't show up at all. I know my team is way better than that, but they got down on themselves. They just couldn't pull it together, they got frustrated, and instead of playing together, they played as individuals.''
After dropping its first set in six postseason matches, Riverdale found itself playing catchup right from the outset of the third game. The Rams scored the opening point, but Dee-Mack (37-1) responded with eight of the next 10. A pair of timeouts called by Black couldn't stem the tide, as the Lady Chiefs rolled to a 15-5 lead and led by no less than nine points after that.
"There were some nerves after our warmup, but we got comfortable real quick,'' said Riverdale senior setter Hannah Nimrick, who had a team-best eight kills and 19 digs to go with 15 assists. "But then we made mistake after mistake (in the final set), and that got us down.''
Dee-Mack's front line of Kyleigh Block and Lauren Anderson also had something to do with that. Block had 13 kills and 14 digs, followed by Anderson with 12 kills and 12 digs. Setter Cayley Meiners kept things going with 27 assists in addition to 12 digs.
In the opening set, it was the Rams getting off and running. Down 9-4 early, Riverdale got a sideout, which ignited an 11-0 run that was fueled by 10 service points from sophomore Becca Hoerres. A subsequent 6-1 sprint put Riverdale up 21-11, but the Chiefs closed the gap to 24-20.
In the second game, the Rams got to within 20-16, but the Chiefs finished with five straight points.
"We've got to be on our `A' game (today) and hustle. Edwards County won't hand it to us,'' said Black, who got seven kills from Sydney Mericle and 15 digs from Elle May. "This (Friday's loss) is not going to be a defining moment for this team.''