SPRINGFIELD — The 2023 IHSA Regional Volleyball Champions, Taylorville Tornadoes. Front row from left to right: Ella Appel, Kendall Rexroad, Alayna Vincent, Lyla Repscher, Claire Hadley, Jessi Wright, Sami Breckenridge, and Brogan Anderson.
Back row: Head Coach Kim Peabody, Olivia Woodward, Liv Havera, Kyleigh Heimsness, Rean Ward, Mazie Fleming, Robyn Ward, Nellea Polley, Lia Champley, Ryan Prince and Asst. Coach Matt Peabody.
Lucas Domonousky Breeze-Courier Sports Editor
SPRINGFIELD — Taylorville knocked down their first challenge on their way to a second consecutive State appearance for volleyball when they defeated the Rochester Rockets for the IHSA Regional Championship on Thursday, Oct. 26. However, the victory wasn’t without it’s challenges taking Taylorville three sets to finally put their non- conference rival away for good, 27-25, 19-25, 25-18.
Springfield High School gym was filled to the brim with spectators eager to witness solid volleyball competition. Both teams delivered on that regards with long winded rallies and monstrous kills that had the crowd engaged throughout all three sets.
The opening portion set the tone for the entire match with a tug of war-type play. Junior Lyla Repscher (two digs) and sophomore Brogan Anderson (16 digs) took care of business at the service line finishing with a combined ten points (two aces). Junior Liv Havera (two digs) added an assist and a block en route to a THS victory in set number one, 27-25.
The second set, though still back and forth, was an uphill climb for the Tornadoes. Silent killer, sophomore Alayna Vincent (11 digs), did it all on the court throwing up five kills, eight assists, seven points (two aces) and a block. Lia Champley Rochester stayed within arms length and did what they needed to do to force a third set, 25-19.
Final set and things were definitely ramping up. The fans were louder and the action on the court felt more precise. High energy libero, senior Claire Hadley (17 digs), kept the team focused and fueled finishing with five service points (two aces) and three assists. Taylorville hitters Mazie Fleming and Robyn Ward came together to combine for twenty- three total kills. The junior/ sophomore pair were crucial in the match but couldn’t have done it without setter Sami Breckenridge (15 digs). The junior’s night ended with twenty assists, three kills and four service points (one ace).
“Going into the game, I knew we could do it.” Says Breckenridge. “We lost to them in the beginning of the season but we went three again. The first set, it was a very close game. A lot of rallies, a lot of good plays. The second set we just kind of slowed down a little bit but we knew we had it in us.
Third set, we just came back with the mindset that we had in the first set. We definitely played the best we’ve played this year. We played and a team, huddled after each set, we just never gave up.”
Head Coach Kim Peabody shared the same thoughts on the Tornadoes team play.
“I thought they played more like a team, together, than they have all season.” She states. “They know they are young. We lost some big players from last year’s team who were talented but to see them all come together was nice. It was fun to watch.”
Coach Peabody also mentions the leadership this Taylorville team has.
“Claire does an excellent job at keeping the team together.” She continues. “Sami as well and Mazie has actually stepped up. Yesterday, in practice, they were having a bad drill, she said ‘Time out. Need a huddle.’ She got everyone in a huddle and they finished the practice strong. I wad really impressed by that. Just shows maturity and growth.”
Taylorville capped the night with a victory in the third set, 25-18, which gave the Tornadoes yet another Regional Championship.
Onto Sectionals they go, Taylorville will stay in Springfield (Southeast) for the IHSA Sectional Semifinal match which will take place on Monday, Oct. 30. A 2022 Super-Sectional rematch between the Tornadoes and Normal U-High will be sure to make for an electric matchup.