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Fieldcrest seniors Gracie Wiesenhofer (No. 11) and Kaitlyn Petersen (No. 12) carry the team’s Class 2A fourth-place trophy Saturday as coach Cathy Sanders (right) and teammates look on. The Lady Knights lost 25-14, 25-10 to Deer Creek-Mackinaw in the third-place match. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
Fieldcrest senior Kaitlyn Petersen (No. 12) hits the ball past Deer Creek-Mackinaw’s Beth Mickna (No. 10) and Kaleigh Krause during the Lady Knights’ 25-14, 25-10 loss in the Class 2A third-place match Saturday. NewsTribune photo/Scott Anderson
After the Fieldcrest volleyball team fell to Deer Creek-Mackinaw 25-14, 25-10 in Saturday’s IHSA Class 2A third-place match, the senior outside hitter was talking about the season when she broke down and let her emotions go.
Seeing Petersen’s passion, senior teammates Kenzie Meyer, Haley Ruestman and Gracie Wiesenhofer also let their feelings show.
“Of course, making it to state, we’re top four for Class 2A, and that’s awesome,” Petersen said. “But just knowing that was the last game we will all play together as seniors is really upsetting for a lot of us.”
Despite not winning a game at the state tournament, the Lady Knights took a lot of pride from the weekend, which brought home Fieldcrest’s first state trophy in any sport.
“I’m pretty proud of the girls and what they accomplished this season,” Fieldcrest coach Cathy Sanders said. “It’s a big thing for our community. Even though right now it stings a little bit after losing, these girls accomplished a lot this season. They basically took a program and turned it around and put Fieldcrest on the map in volleyball.
“This wasn’t quite the way we wanted to finish today, but I couldn’t be more proud of them, and taking that trophy home is beyond words for these kids.”
In four years, Fieldcrest went from a seven-win program to 11 wins to 19 wins to a school-record 33-6-1 record this season and the first-ever state appearance by the program.
“Starting freshman year, we all dressed varsity and it didn’t go how we planned. We weren’t as good as we expected,” Ruestman said. “But, over the years, we’ve improved every single year so getting to the top four in the state of Illinois is a great accomplishment but it’s, of course, not how we want to end the day.”
Saturday just wasn’t the Lady Knights’ day.
Playing against its Heart of Illinois Conference rival, Fieldcrest never got started against Dee-Mack as it fell behind early in both sets.
Dee-Mack took advantage at the service line early and continued it throughout the match as the Lady Chiefs finished with 15 aces, which set a new Class 2A single-match record and was four shy of the all-time IHSA state tournament record of 19. Dee-Mack senior outside hitter Kyleigh Block also set a new 2A single-match record with five aces.
“Our serving has been a weapon for us all year,” Dee-Mack coach Brandon Mueller said. “We have some really good jump servers and, of course, we have some really good float servers. All year long, we’ve been able to get teams out of system and made teams predictable, and I thought we did that today.”
With Fieldcrest down 8-6 in the first set, Dee-Mack went on a 7-0 run — backed by four aces from junior Lauren Anderson — to take a 15-6 lead that the Lady Chiefs rode to take the opening set.
Fieldcrest scored the first two points of the second set off a Dee-Mack error and a Ruestman kill, but the Lady Chiefs countered with a 7-0 surge — which included three aces — to take a 7-2 lead.
The Lady Knights never pulled within four points the rest of the way as their magical season came to a close.
“We set really high expectations for everybody else to come up to,” Wiesenhofer said. “We’re all such a great group of girls and we all played really well together.”
Wiesenhofer finished with a team-high 10 digs and added four assists, while junior setter Courtney Moritz dished out four assists.
Fieldcrest managed just nine kills in the match, while Dee-Mack put down 24 kills.
“We’ve been playing together since we were really little, so it’s been fun to still play with each other,” Meyer said. “I just hope we set a good example for future teams.”