In an epic three-set battle, Penny Gunter’s Lady Bulldog volleyball team came up short against Benton, falling 24-26, 25-17, 29-27 on Tuesday, October 29, in the semi-finals of the West Frankfort regional.
The loss ended CWC’s season with a record of 24-12, setting a record for most wins in a season according to the IHSA website.
“Benton did not have any super hitters, but played fantastic defense,” said Gunter. “It was like playing a perfect mirror image of ourselves.”
The Lady Bulldogs battled nerves in the first set, falling behind 9-5. However, CWC got their bearings soon after. Back-to-back kills from seniors Mariah VanMatre and Sydney Lucas gave the maroon and white their first lead at 11-10, extending their advantage to four at 20-16. Benton did not give in, scratching back to tie the score at 22-22. The Rangerettes had set point at 24-23, but CWC rallied behind kills from Lucas and Jessica Smith to win the first set.
In the second set, the Lady Canines never led at any point. Although CWC pulled within one at 12-11, a combination of poor serve-receive and passing errors gave Benton a seven-point advantage (20-13) and eventually would force a third set.
The Lady Bulldogs jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the deciding set. Benton found their hitting and digging game, rallying to take 15-10 advantage. When the Rangerettes extended their lead to 22-16, it appeared that CWC was finished. However, three consecutive Benton hitting errors and a VanMatre kill pulled the Lady Bulldogs within two at 22-20. Benton rallied to match point (24-20) when CWC called timeout. After the timeout, three Rangerette miscues and a Lady Canine kill from Lucas tied the score 24-24. CWC held off another match point when VanMatre delivered a back-corner kill to level the score at 25-25. Lucas added two kills to her tally to give the Lady Bulldogs two match point opportunities (26-25 and 27-26) but could not finish. Finally, Benton delivered a match-winning ace to advance to the regional championship.
Frankie Hayes and Marley Mallow (one ace) both had a team-high eight service points. Lucas contributed 16 kills, while VanMatre added 13. While Karson Kays handed out 22 assists, Smith recorded 12 blocks and Lucas added 22 digs defensively.