Clarahan propels Rockets vs. Morton

Bryan Veginski
Kristin Hoecker, a Morton junior setter, executes a serve during an October match. The Potters lost to Limestone Oct. 28 in the Class 3A regional semifinals, 22-25, 19-25.

Limestone and Morton waged another hard-fought volleyball tussle Thursday.

The Rockets prevailed for the third time this season, 25-22, 25-19, in the Class 3A Morton Regional semifinals.

The loss ended the first Morton (14-20-1) season under head coach Michelle Hahn.

In Mid-Illini Conference play, Limestone won 25-23, 21-25, 25-16 in Bartonville before a 25-21, 25-20 victory in Morton.

The Potters trailed 13-8 in the first set before forging a tie at 22. In set two, the No. 3 seed fell behind 7-0 before twice drawing within two points.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the girls,” Hahn said. “They battled the whole way through.”

Sarah Livingston led Morton with 10 kills, while Janie Backs had a team-high 19 digs.

Kristin Hoecker supplied 15 assists and Grace Uhde and Heidi Schoenbein chipped in an ace.

Payton Clarahan, one of the better players in the area, led the Rockets in three categories.

The teams basically traded points in the opening set before a 4-0 run gave second-seeded Limestone a 13-8 lead.

Kelsey Kirk stopped the surge with a kill. A later slam by the junior made it 19-17 in favor of the Rockets.

Livingston recorded a pair of kills during a four-point Morton run that knotted the match at 22, the first tie since 4-4 on a Kathryn Hess dink.

Clarahan then came through with two kills before a Potter attacking error ended the set.

Hahn said Morton came out a “little bit tentative” in falling behind by seven to start the second set.

The Potters still trailed 17-9 before making a spirited rally.

“Even though we didn’t come off with a win, it was good to end the way we battled,” Hahn said.

Schoenbein rose for a slam before Uhde started a three-point spree at the service line with an ace.

A Livingston kill preceding back-to-back Rocket miscues closed the gap to 19-17.

Limestone tried to reassert control with a couple points, but Morton stayed in contact on a nicely-placed hit by Hoecker and a Livingston kill.

“I thought we might,” said Hahn about coming all the way back from the large deficit. “I knew they were working well together.”

Clarahan again lifted the Rockets by finding the corner for a 22-19 margin.

Two straight aces by Shelby Gruber put Limestone on the brink of advancing, and Carson Delgadillo finished off the match with a kill.

The Rockets lost to No. 1 seed Washington for the regional championship.