ROCKFORD, Ill. – The Harper College volleyball team had mixed results over the weekend at the Kishwaukee Invitational at Rock Valley College, going 2-3 in their five matches against quality competition. The No. 5 Hawks (26-20) came into the weekend having won 12 of their last 15 matches but struggled at times with consistency.
Harper vs. South Suburban College
The Hawks started the weekend with a straight sets defeat at the hands of a strong South Suburban squad (16-25, 16-25, 18-25), snapping their 17-match win streak against the Bulldogs dating back to 2004.
In game one, the two teams were tied at 16-16 before the Bulldogs won the last nine points to gain a 1-0 advantage. Libero Kelly Spychala (Des Plaines, Ill./Elk Grove) paced the defense with six digs.
Harper struggled with hitting errors in game two and could not mount a comeback. In the third game, Alex Messner (Hoffman Estates, Ill./Fremd) led the Hawks with three kills and five digs, but it wasn't enough for victory.
Setter Lindsey Murphy (Lake in the Hills, Ill./Crystal Lake South) handed out a team-high 23 assists.
Harper vs. Highland Community College
After defeating Highland in straight sets at the COD 18th Annual Classic on Aug. 24, the Hawks replicated the feat with another straight sets victory (25-11, 25-22, 25-18).
"We played very smoothly in this match with good transition, nice defense and we were running our offense well," said Harper head coach Bob Vilsoet.
The Hawks had control throughout the first set, building leads of 7-4, 13-5 and 18-9 en route to victory. Outside hitter Rebekah Hischke (Algonquin, Ill./Dundee Crown) played a strong set, going 8-for-8 serving with an ace, kill and three digs.
The second set was much tighter, as the two teams were locked at 18-18 before Harper pulled away for a victory. In the third set, Melina Villaber (Chicago, Ill./Taft) led the Hawks with four kills while Hischke was a key part of the defensive effort with three crucial blocks.
For the match, Spychala led the team with 17 digs while Villaber was 21-for-23 hitting with eight kills.
Harper vs. Kalamazoo Valley Community College
Harper struggled in the service game against Kalamazoo, missing 14 serves and ultimately losing in four sets to the Cougars (22-25, 25-14, 18-25, 21-25).
The Hawks trailed throughout the first set and only totaled five kills. The team rebounded nicely in set two, building leads of 13-8, 17-9 and 23-11 before winning comfortably.
After the easy win, Harper fell behind in set three and couldn't quite catch the Cougars. Fighting for their match lives in the fourth set, the Hawks tied it at 19-19, but Kalamazoo closed by winning six of the final eight points.
Two Hawks – Murphy (15 digs, 33 assists) and Messner (10 kills, 16 digs) – tallied double-doubles in a losing effort. Spychala continued to add to her nation-best digs total with 20 more digs while outside hitter led Harper with four blocks.
Harper vs. Black Hawk College
The Hawks previously defeated Black Hawk in four sets at the Harper College Invitational on Sept. 20, but this time Harper earned a straight sets win on Saturday morning (25-14, 25-20, 25-21).
The team played well and built a big lead in the first set on their way to victory. Madison Rodriguez (Palatine, Ill./Palatine) led the Hawks with five kills while outside hitter Alyse Kolner (Crystal Lake, Ill./Marion Central) added a team-high six digs.
In the second set, the Hawks nursed a slim 19-18 lead before finishing strong to win 25-20. Outside hitter Veronica Dabrowski (Mount Prospect, Ill./Rolling Meadows) had a team-high four kills while Murphy had tallied 10 assists. Harper trailed throughout much of the third set but finished strong for a victory.
"This is another data point that says we have improved significantly as a team," Vilsoet said.
Murphy recorded her second straight double-double with 12 digs and 32 assists.
Harper vs. Owens Community College
Against a strong and well-coached Owens team, the Hawks lost in straight sets to end the weekend (16-25, 20-25, 11-25) with a 2-3 record.
The Jaguars played a strong first set to top Harper easily. The second set was the closest of the match (22-18 at one point), but the Hawks were not able to come out on top. Spychala's seven digs in the third set were not enough to make up for the team's poor execution.
For the match, Dabrowski notched a team-high eight kills while Spychala paced the Hawks with 14 digs. Murphy was once again a consistent presence, recording 10 digs and 22 assists for her third straight double-double.
"Owens played very well in this match. I'll bet that was their best match of the tournament," Vilsoet said.
Regular season play is winding down for the Hawks in 2013. Harper travels to McHenry County College on Thursday for a 6 PM match before heading to Kankakee on Saturday for a trimatch with Kankakee Community College and Lewis and Clark Community College to close out the regular season.