By Tom Schultzâ€©For the Herald
The Clinton Herald
---- — FULTON, Ill. — Pulses were racing on both benches as the Prophetstown Prophets fought their way back from a 22-14 deficit to trim Fulton’s lead to 23-22 in their second game of the night. The Prophets had the momentum as the match was winding down, and they were looking to steal the win from Fulton and force another game, while the Steamers wanted to put the Prophets away then and there.
“I always say momentum is 90 percent of the game,” Fulton coach Stacy Germann said.
Fulton needed to find a way to get the ball back in its favor to avoid squandering an earlier great run from the service line earlier by senior Ann Renkes. The Steamers and Prophets went back and forth, digging the ball out and keeping the play alive, Fulton attacking the left side and the Prophets just keeping the ball in the air. Fulton found its opening. Sophomore Camerin Huizenga swung down hard after a great set and got the cross-court kill for the Steamers.
It was then that the Steamers knew they had the game and match on their Senior Night against the visiting Prophets.
“It’s great that we won our Senior Night. It got scary there toward the end,” senior Rachael Beiermann said.
Fellow senior Olivia Edfors also shared her thoughts about the win.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said. “This game was a lot different than other games because you know it’s your last one; it’s your last chance to play on your home court.”
That point from Huizenga put Fulton up 24-22 with the serve and game point, and changed the atmosphere from apprehension to one of certainty that the Steamers were going to win.
“We knew we had to catch up there, and we ended up doing it,” Beiermann said.
Fulton had the momentum back and the confidence needed to put away the Prophets and go home victorious. They sent the serve over, and after getting the return from Prophetstown, set up their strongest hitter for the kill. Sophomore Betsy Leonard didn’t miss from the middle, slamming the ball to the ground on the other side of the court to give Fulton the win.
The Steamers celebrated on the court, seniors enjoying their final home victory of their careers and the rest of the team celebrating a hard-fought win against a conference opponent. It also gave Fulton (8-17-3) a .500 record (7-7) in the Three Rivers Conference.
The first match was a character-builder for the Steamers as they fought from behind, down seven points early on at one point, to win 25-23. Fulton had gained the momentum as the first match wound down, taking the lead late after the score had passed 20. They kept the momentum in their favor by beginning the second game with a 5-0 run.
Renkes began that run, serving up two aces to put them ahead early, but the Prophets (10-17, 4-9) found a groove and took the lead as both teams went into double digits. With the score in the early teens, the rotation for the Steamers came back around to Renkes at the service line.
“I knew I had to get my team some points,” she said. “I knew that I had to get my serve down; it couldn’t go long.”
The most consistent server for the Steamers all season, and one of the top servers on the team her entire career with Fulton, Renkes stepped up to the line and again baffled the Prophets serve-receive, racking up nine straight points for the Steamers.
“Ann’s serves tonight definitely helped us out; she brought us a lot of points,” Beiermann said. “We counted on her (Renkes) a lot tonight.”
The Steamers had their own issues with their serve-receive, which allowed the Prophets back into the second game after Renkes’ run.
“It was very nerve-racking, especially when she (Prophetstown server) mixed it up a bit,” Fulton senior Marla Stoecker said. “The server had a really good floater, and I did not read it well at all.”
The perseverance the Steamers showed in the first game, clawing their way into the win, showed once more at the end of the second game as they rattled off the final two points on two hard-hit kills from Huizenga and Leonard to seal the victory.
The Steamers will have plenty to take from their win over Prophetstown as they head into their final tournament this weekend and then regionals next week with a desire to go far in the tournament.
“We came from behind, and that hasn’t been very characteristic for us this year,” Germann said. “A time that you want it to start showing is toward the postseason. So it was nice to see that we could dig our heels in and come from behind and end up with a win.”
FULTON 25-25, PROPHETSTOWN 23-22
Kills — Prophetstown, Karlie Stafford 10, Claire Milnes 6; Fulton, Betsy Leonard 7, Caamerin Huizenga 5, Chelsea Lesniewski 4, Rachael Beiermann 4. Assists — Prophetstown, Kate Fringer 18, Katlyn Shirley 1; Fulton, Beiermann 11, Olivia Edfors 7. Digs — Prophetstown, Clare Kramer 8, Fringer 6, Stafford 5; Fulton, Lesniewski 8, Averi Leitzen 7, Marla Stoecker 7. Blocks – Prophetstown, Adams 1, Kali Fetrow 1; Fulton, Leonard 2, Kerrigan Enloe 1. Ace serves — Prophetstown, Kramer 1, Shirley 1; Fulton, Ann Renkes 8, Lesniewski 1.
Sophomores — Fulton won 26-24, 17-25, 15-8. Note — Fulton won the conference title and finished the season with a 30-5 record.
Freshmen — Fulton won 25-16, 25-9.