EARLVILLE, Ill. – With game point on the line, the crowd saw the set from Kylie Collachia headed to the outside, and it was over before they knew it.

Senior outside hitter Emily Schipper threw down the ball for one of her team-high 12 kills to put the final touch on a 25-23, 25-23 win over Forreston on Thursday night.

“I felt extremely good about it,” Collachia said. “She was on all game. I just knew it would be a good hit to end it right there.”

The team rushed onto the court, falling collectively into a screaming dog pile before going through the handshake line. Then they received their plaque: 2019 Regional Champions.

The match was a little more inconsistent than the Steamers may have hoped for, especially in the beginnings. The inconsistencies stemmed from problems in the back row and passes on serve receive and digs just not hitting their mark.

“Passing, passing, passing,” head coach Stacy Germann said. “We fell apart a little bit on serve receive and defense we just weren’t quite making the adjustments.”

Still, in each of the two sets the Steamers climbed their way back.

“We were behind in both games and we’ve been doing that,” Germann said. “But they dig themselves out of that hole and I haven’t had teams that have done that in a long time. They don’t roll over a die, they get out of it.”

In Set 1, the Steamers tied everything up at 22-22. After Forreston tallied a point, a super long rally occurred. The rally involved a lot of tips and junk, in which setter Kylie Collachia and middle blocker Megan Bailey handled the majority of, battling with the Cardinals at the net.

“I just remember what my coach says on where to hit,” Bailey said. “Look ten-foot line and deep corners and that’s just where I put it. Sometimes I get nervous, but once I start to swing I know it’s going to be straight down.”

The scrappy play benefited Fulton with Forreston ending the rally with a hitting error.

“We got most of them up really well,” Collachia said. “If they were tight, we got them up to where we could set them to somebody or Ally [Curley] could pass to a hitter. We did really good.”

Another hitting error left the Steamers with set-point, and Schipper sent the kill of the Cardinal block to end it.

Once again, the Steamers started slow in Set 2 with bad passes and their own errors. Forreston got out to a lead, but Fulton stayed withing three or four points.

“It’s just the part we need to work on the most is just defense,” Germann said. “Forreston played great defense – they dug a lot and their defense is an A+ game. That might be where we struggle a little bit and they had some hits that we just couldn’t follow.”

They finally tied it up, once again at 22-22.

Maddie Hodge took the lead for the Steamers with an ace, and then Emily Schipper put one away. With match-point on the line, the Cardinals tipped a ball over the Steamer block that landed, putting them within one.

But Schipper didn’t allow them to come closer with her powerful kill to end it.

The Steamers got a little bit from everybody on Thursday. Schipper had 12 kills, but Maddie Hodge added another nine opposite her in the rotation. Megan Bailey put away five and the team had just eight hitting errors on the night.

Setter Kylie Collachia says she knows she can give it to anyone on the team for an attack.

“I’m confident that no matter where I put it up they’re going to put it over and most likely get a kill for it,” Collachia said.

“Kylie Collachia is a top ranked setter and we are very blessed to have what she does to set our hitters up,” Germann said. “She’s a pretty amazing athlete.”

The Steamers (30-8) now move on to sectional play, traveling to Pecatonica on Monday. There they will meet Dakota, who has just four losses on the season, including two wins over Forreston. The winner of that match will move on to the sectional final on Wednesday against either Sterling Newman or

“There energy is great, the bench has helped out a ton, and that is something we need,” Germann said. “We need to practice defense and we need to practice reading hitters because form here on out, it’s good hitting teams. It’s just good against good and it’s going to be who can dig up those hits.”