Volleyball: Season in Review


Stephanie Hansing, Reporter, Photographer

The volleyball team went into the postseason confident and ambitious. The Varsity team was ranked No. 1 in Class 3A. In years past, there have been many talented freshmen and sophomores who play on Varsity, but this year was special. U-high had three starting freshmen, Emma Jean Lehnen (DS), Laney Snow (OH), and Morgan Petelin (S) and two starting sophomores, Lola Clayton (S) and Levyn Snow (OH). Along with a large portion of the team being underclassmen, there were also two pairs of sisters on Varsity. 

“We do drills in practice that focus on each other, which has helped to develop a comfort for the underclassman,” sophomore Lola Clayton said. 

The team dynamic is important, especially in the postseason where these games are more mentally challenging. 

“I feel like there is a lot more confidence in the varsity players and who they are as a team this year,” freshman coach Kayla Schahrer said. 

The first two games of the postseason were played at Rantoul High School. The first Regional game on October 25 was against Urbana, and the Pioneers won in two sets (25-14, 25-8). The win against Urbana advanced the Pioneers to the Regional Final against Mahomet-Seymour on October 27. The game went to three sets with the Pioneers losing the first set 21-25, regrouping and winning the next two sets 25-19 and once again 25-19. The next step was Sectionals.

The first game of Sectionals took place on October 31 against the Railers at Lincoln High School. The parents of the U-High volleyball players sponsored a fan bus for students to go and support the team. Since it was Halloween night, there was a lot of fun to be had for those attending. The Lincoln student section’s theme was Halloween costumes. Prior to the game, the ref was wearing a Headless Horseman costume. U-High won the game in two sets (25-23, 25-16). After the winning point, the whole team rushed onto the court to celebrate. This win moved them closer to their goal of State, and their next game would be the Sectional Championship against Normal West High School in Lincoln on November 2.

U-High previously played Normal West High School at Intercity a month earlier and lost in three tight sets. At Intercity, the Varsity team was missing senior Caroline Leak, who was out with an injury. Leak is a strong outside hitter and an asset to the team. 

“I’m feeling good about tonight, and we have Caroline back now too. With Caroline back, we have a better offense,” senior Alyssa Dryer said on the day of the event. 

It was a tough game physically and mentally, especially in the second set when they were down 1-4. They won in three sets (18-25, 25-17, 25-20) against the Wildcats. Players and students rushed onto the court to celebrate the win after senior Lily Barry made the game-ending kill. 

“I was shocked, but I knew that we could do it the entire time,” sophomore Levyn Snow said. ”I still couldn’t believe that it happened. It was really exciting, especially because we lost to them in the intercity.” Levyn was one of the sibling starters with her sister freshman Lainey Snow.

Glenwood High School hosted the Super-Sectional Game on November 4. Like the other Sectional Games, there was a fan bus that was sponsored by volleyball parents. The students filled the bleachers in their “groutfits” (gray outfits) to cheer on their peers. U-High won the first set against Taylorville (25-22). In the second set, the Pioneers were up 24-21, but Taylorville came back and won the next five points, winning the second set. Momentum is everything, and in the third set, U-High got a 6-point run, making the score 9-3, but it was a battle for every point. In the end, Taylorville came out on top (23-25). 

“If you’re ever involved in a school sport activity, please enjoy it because it goes by fast,” Snow said. “And it will be over before you know it.”

Seniors Kylie Punke and Barry shared this sentiment. Though their season was cut short these girls still loved the time they spent together and the bonds that they’ve made.

“It’s been amazing so far and amazing how we’ve gone so far and to know that for some people that it’s their last year and making it this far is something that means a lot,” Snow said.