BY AARON PATTERSON email@example.com
---- — DANVILLE — Not every team can be on its game all the time. Even in the midst of success, a top performance isn’t always guaranteed.
That’s exactly how the Schlarman Academy Hilltoppers felt on Monday night following their 25-9, 25-20 home win over the Danville Vikings.
It was the Hilltoppers’ eighth consecutive win, but with bigger goals in mind, the win didn’t come without a bit of frustration and a desire to constantly improve.
“I think I can sum that up in one word, and that’s errors,” Schlarman Academy senior Jordan Marganski said of the Hilltoppers’ overall disappointment. “This whole season we’ve been focusing on playing clean volleyball. That means limiting service errors, limiting passing errors, and then from there just taking care of the ball.
“In this second set, we had more service errors than I’ve ever seen us have. Passing just wasn’t there. Definitely, just not clean volleyball.”
Marganski had a match-high eight kills and four blocks while teammate Laura Gross finished with five kills and three blocks. Janelle Marion had 16 assists.
Five of Marganski’s kills came in the first set as the Hilltoppers gave the Vikings little hope of earning the win. Lexi Rangel served Schlarman Academy to 17 consecutive points en route to the 25-9 win. But the second set didn’t come as easily.
The Hilltoppers built a 15-8 lead but couldn’t put the Vikings away as errors plagued them and nearly cost them the set.
Danville pulled to within 23-20 on a Schlarman Academy service error, but a pair of errors by the Vikings helped seal the win for the Hilltoppers.
“I don’t think we’ve had a game with this many service errors and serve-receive errors,” Schlarman Academy coach Heidi Crane said. “They’ve been pretty good. I’m not sure what happened with that. I was a little in shock. We’ve definitely been playing a little better than this, but, I guess you have your ups and downs.”
The gym was by far the loudest the Hilltoppers have experienced this season in a home match, and Marganski said the hyped environment might have aided in the Hilltoppers’ struggles.
“It’s just that thing where we haven’t had this kind of atmosphere in our gym in a while, so maybe that got to us a little,” Marganski said. “That shouldn’t be an excuse. That’s something we’re just going to have to deal with. Now that we’ve had a taste of it, maybe we can focus on being able to perform under pressure.”
While some teams might use the crowd to their advantage, that’s not entire the case for this year’s Hilltoppers. Returning everyone from last season except Ella Black, Schlarman Academy is learning to find success through its team chemistry and fundamentals rather than playing solely on emotion.
“That’s something that we’ve been focusing a lot on,” Marganski said. “We’re not a team that goes out there and gets hyped up and plays well. We’re a team that goes out there and is focused on a goal and plays clean volleyball.”
They hope to play a clean game tonight when they take on the Salt Fork Storm in a battle of two of the top teams in the Vermilion Valley Conference. A win would extend the Hilltoppers’ streak to nine matches, but at this point, they’re not keeping track.
“We’ve been going in just one game at a time, trying to improve ourselves and play a little smarter and be more aggressive,” Crane said. “That’s what we work on every single game. It’s something that we’re trying to push with the girls.”
Danville will also be back in action tonight visiting Urbana.