Resilient Ravens secure home opener victory

By Giovanni Coronel
Posted 9/13/23

Playing at home for the first time this season to battle conference foe Pekin, Hillcrest found themselves in an eerily similar situation from last year.

Last season Hillcrest lost to Pekin after …

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Resilient Ravens secure home opener victory


Playing at home for the first time this season to battle conference foe Pekin, Hillcrest found themselves in an eerily similar situation from last year.

Last season Hillcrest lost to Pekin after winning the first set but losing the next three to lose the match 3-1. 

Following a similar pattern this year’s matchup began with Hillcrest winning the first set and dropping the second set, but the Ravens made sure that’s where the similarities ended. 

Turning the tables and flipping the script the Ravens rebounded and claimed victory in the next two sets to win the match, 3-1, with final scores of 25-16, 25-23, 25-14, and 25-18 on Sept. 5.  

“Last year, we lost almost an identical match,” Hillcrest volleyball coach Brandon Statler said. “We went out and took the first set and really got rattled, but we’ve turned it around this year, we played with a level of maturity.”

This matchup against Pekin served as a test for Hillcrest, to see if they have progressed and learned from their previous matches and it’s safe to say the Ravens passed with flying colors. 

With this win the Ravens not only improve their record to 5-4 but they also surpass their win total from last year. 

The growth in this team compared to last year has been apparent and now their progress has translated over into the win column. 

“I really am pleased to see [Hillcrest] going up for an attack and already knowing what they’re going to do. There is so many times when we’re playing from behind, we get up to the top and decide in the air,” coach Statler said about how Hillcrest played in their win over Pekin.  

“When it was working tonight it’s like we knew what we were going to do and that’s what we need, just need the game to slow down for everybody and play our kind of volleyball.”

The second set had the lowest point differential of the night, and it was also the only set Pekin won. Too many service errors committed by Hillcrest in the set contributed to the Panther’s victory. 

In the following sets Pekin was able to use tips to consistently score, a facet of Pekin’s game that proved to be difficult for Hillcrest to handle. 

“We struggled to stop [Pekin’s] tips. I’m not sure why we couldn’t adjust,” coach Statler said. “After the first set and a half they didn’t swing hardly at all, so we just got to be able to make those adjustments on the fly and realize when that’s happening a little quicker.” 

Despite Pekin finding an effective way to score it was not enough as the Hillcrest offense proved to be too much for the Panthers to handle in the last two sets.

On offense Hillcrest was led by juniors Malia Yoder and Kylee Statler. Yoder collected the most kills (14) and Statler had the second most kills (10) on the team. 

These two also made an impact on defense. Yoder led the Ravens in digs (16) while Statler, along with sophomore Niva Helmuth, led the team in solo blocks (3). 

“The hitters, Kylee and Malia each had double digit kills,” coach Statler said about which Ravens impressed in the win. “Kylee and Niva had three or four blocks each, that totally shut down [Pekin’s] attack system.” 

The Ravens also had an efficient night serving. As a team they compiled 21 service aces with Statler, Yoder, and sophomore Claire Withrow all connecting on five service aces each. 

Withrow also continues to be the main driving force behind Hillcrest’s attacks, leading the team in assists (33). 

This win over Pekin was also Hillcrest’s first Southeast Iowa Super Conference victory of the season.

Wapello 3, Hillcrest 0

Traveling on the road again the Ravens were defeated by the Wapello Arrows, 3-0, with final scores of 25-12, 25-17, and 25-14 on September 7. 

With this win the Arrows improved their season record to 7-8 and they stretched their winning streak over the Ravens to eight in a row. 

For Hillcrest this loss drops its record to 5-5 and it marks the second time this season where they have been swept in a five-set match. 

Not being able to find their footing on offense the Ravens had trouble scoring against Wapello’s defense, averaging about 14 points per set. 

A stalwart piece of Wapello’s defense was senior Emily Hemphill who led the Arrows with three solo blocks and 17 digs. She also led her team in kills (13). 

For Hillcrest the top performance on offense belonged to junior Malia Yoder. Yoder ended the matchup against Wapello with a team leading nine kills. She also recorded six digs on the defensive side of things. 

The Raven who had the most digs (9) was junior Lydia Beachy and sophomore Claire Withrow led the team in assists (22).