By: Luke Drase
On Wednesday night, the unstoppable force that was the Highland Park offense, overcame the immovable Maine East back row in an epic three set match 25-22, 19-25, 25-21.
The two contrasting styles of volleyball made for some thrilling plays and highlight worthy rallys. Highland Park utilized their size and power to stifle the Maine East attack most of the night, but the Blue Demons countered with their impressive back row play to constantly extend rallies.
Maine East took an early 9-5 lead in the first set with their aggressive serving and poor serve receive from Highland Park.
Highland Park countered straight away, the Giants block prevented Maine East from siding out on multiple occasions, giving the Demons fits to where they eventually started producing multiple hitting errors.
A long rally that went the Maine East’s way that pulled them within two points late in the set and looked like the momentum shift the Blue Demons needed, but another hitting error from Maine East gave Highland Park the first set.
The second set saw Maine East jump out to big leads again. The Demons maintained the lead all the way up to 22-16, but a great timeout from Highland Park got in the heads of the Demons, as they proceeded to miss a serve, and get aced twice by the Giants.
However, the run from Highland Park did not last, and Maine East closed out the set with a three point swing of their own.
As the decisive third set got underway, neither team gave their opponent an inch.
Highland Park’s outside hitting combination of Ireland Hieb and Olivia Carter kept pounding away at the Demons, but the back row of Maine East refused to let a single ball hit the floor.
As a team, Maine East combined for over 60 digs, led by Maddie Sielski who had 30 digs on her own.
Neither team had much breathing room in the third set. The game was back and forth and hit a score of 12 all before either team obtained more than a one point lead.
In an unexpected change of events, the Maine East front row came through midway through the set. Chris Kotsifas put away a couple of big kills for the Demons and Erika Christiansen came up with a huge stuff block against Hieb to give the Demons a 16-12 advantage.
But just like in game one, Highland Park rallied again. With Kotsifas (who finished the match with 12 kills, 12 digs and three aces) stuck in the backrow. Maine East were unable to put anything away and Highland Park took a 19-17 lead.
Kotsifas finally rotated back to the front row with the Demons trailing 21-19 and proceeded to get a kill straight away, but Highland Park won four out of the next five points to take the match and remain undefeated in conference play.
Even though Maine East and Highland Park have plenty of opponents before they meet again, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if these are the two teams who end up fighting it out for a CSL North title.