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Braves Best ‘Birds in Volleyball Season Finale

Written by on November 16, 2022

Image courtesy of Redbird Athletics

NORMAL, Ill. – On a night when no matter how well the young Illinois State University volleyball squad could play, they knew their season would be over when the clock struck midnight.

There was still a lot left for the resilient team to get up for. First off, they could play spoiler for their sworn rival as the Bradley Braves would need this win to qualify for the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, but more importantly, they wanted to send off their beloved seniors with a win.

The first set would have a lot of back-and-forth action with the intensity being that of a playoff game. The ball had been hit with extra power, but the digs would be just as impressive and with complete disregard for the athletes’ own bodies as both teams were laying it on the line early. Bradley would eventually pull away in the first set and not look back despite what was almost a momentum-swinging challenge by Head Coach Allie Matters, as the Braves took the first set 25-22.

The second set was close early but would become all Redbirds after a 7-1 run to close that set out 25-16 and even the match at one set apiece. The first two sets were just an appetizer for what was to come, as the third set was full of back-and-forth action. The Braves pushed the set to match point three times, but the Redbirds would not go away with incredible digs from senior libero Kaity Weimerskirch and senior outside hitter Sarah Kushner. Their efforts wouldn’t be enough as Bradley took the third and defining set 27-25.

That was just about all she wrote for the Redbirds, as the Braves took the fourth and final set 25-16. ISU appeared to be out of gas, seeming to define what has been a tumultuous first season for Matters. Game leaders for the Redbirds would feature Hannah Reichensperger with 11 kills and Emily Weber with 22 assists. The other side of the net had two players who filled the box score as Abby Johnson had 16 kills and Carlee Camlin had 44 assists for the Braves.

“The future is bright,” said senior Kendee Hilliard. “I think with a little fine-tuning in the spring – we’ll be back to our winning ways.”

When asked about the overall feeling of the season, Matters acknowledged how “the season had been quite exhausting.” She went on to say how much she wanted to compete despite the adversity the team faced.

After Bradley scored the game-winning point, the emotion of the Illinois State seniors was palpable and a hush fell over the crowd as Seniors Kendee Hilliard, Kaity Weimerskirch, and Sarah Kushner were all applauded for decorated careers at Illinois State University. Later, Sophomore Katelyn Lefler was recognized for recording her 1,000th career assist. The Redbirds’ overall record for the season ends as 12-17, and 5-13 in Missouri Valley Conference play.