PORT BYRON, Ill. — Refusing to give up, Prophetstown pulled off an improbable comeback to win the first set, then the Prophets used a long serving run by senior Katlyn Shirley in the second set to mentally break Bureau Valley and complete a sweep of the top seed Tuesday at the Illinois Class 2A Riverdale Regional volleyball tournament.
“It just gives me goose bumps,” Prophetstown senior Karlie Stafford said after the 29-27, 25-12 victory in the first semifinal matchup. “We were not expected to go this far.”
The Prophets (12-19) entered as the lowest seed of the five teams in the field. But they followed up a win over fourth-seeded Morrison on Monday by knocking off the top seeds a day later to earn a spot in the championship match. They will face Three Rivers Conference rival Fulton, the No. 3 seed, at 7 p.m. Thursday for the title and the right to advance to next week’s Farmington Sectional.
“We knew we could do it,” sophomore Claire Milnes said.
Bureau Valley appeared in control for most of the first set. The Storm scored the first two points and maintained the edge for most of the game, eventually building a 20-14 lead when Sydney Lebahn fed Valerie Reuter for a kill.
But, the Prophets refused to fold.
“I was so proud of how the team did not give up,” Shirley said.
“We’ve talked all season about getting one point at a time and weathering the storm, that every point might matter at the end,” Prophetstown coach Arthur Wyckoff said.
Kills by Stafford and Clare Kramer on each side of a Storm hitting error cut the gap to 20-17. A bad set gave the serve back to the Storm, but they gave it right back with a hitting error. Prophetstown then reeled off two more points, getting a free-ball kill by Milnes and a kill by Kramer to pull within 21-20.
A serving error stalled the comeback, then Lindsey Hoffert delivered two kills on each side of a net violation by the Storm to put them within a point of the victory at 24-21.
They never could finish it off, though.
A push kill from the right side by Kramer and back-to-back blocks by Milnes tied it.
“I told them during a timeout that we needed a well-timed block, and we got two in a row. They gave us momentum,” Wyckoff said.
“I tried to figure out where their hitters were,” Milnes explained. “They were always going to the same spot. I just went up with my hands and had to get it.”
Stafford took over after that. She delivered a kill that gave the Prophets their first lead of the night and moments later produced a personal 3-1 scoring run that put the Prophets ahead 28-27 before they finished it off with a service point.
“We just played one point at a time to win,” she said.
The second set was close early, but kills by Stafford and Kramer, followed by a Stafford ace gave Prophetstown a 7-5 lead that it never lost.
The teams traded points, then Shirley did everything but finish off the Storm with an eight-point service run that included three aces, the last resembling a major-league fastball.
Bureau Valley never recovered from the 16-6 deficit, with a kill by Stafford ending it at 25-12.
“They just gave up,” Shirley said.
“It was a lot of fun to end the set that way,” Wyckoff said.
Now, the Prophets hope the fun continues Thursday.
PROPHETSTOWN 29-25, BUREAU VALLEY 25-12
Prophetstown statistical leaders
Kills — Karlie Stafford 13, Clare Kramer 12, Claire Milnes 7. Assists — Katie Fringer 27. Digs — Katlyn Shirley 7. Blocks — Milnes 2. Ace serves — Shirley 3, Kramer 2, Stafford 2.