Several Center Point-Urbana players laid in a heap on their home court Tuesday night.
After trickling out from their locker room, the girls gathered around family and friends, tears still fresh in their eyes, and hugged anyone who offered one in return. A few started to lie down on the hardwood, reminiscing about the hours and years they’d poured into activities there. More and more joined until they formed a neat pile close to the baseline.
For more than half of the 2019 Stormin’ Pointers volleyball team, their high school volleyball careers are done. Ten of the 18 players on first-year head coach Michelle Halac’s roster are seniors. They all contributed their best in their season finale, a 3-1 (25-23, 22-25, 17-25, 21-25) loss to Charles City in the 4A Region 6 semifinals.
“I think everybody has definitely held themselves to high expectations, held each other to high expectations,” Halac said. “They’ve all come out with that mentality that they’re going to go do the best they can every game and earn everything that they get.
“The seniors stepped up and were leaders for us, especially with losing a lot of people and having some new ones come in who haven’t seen a lot of varsity time.”
Among those seniors are a pair of First-Team All-Conference selections in outside hitter Emily Kono and libero Peyton Kriegel. Kono turned in another typical night for her in her last outing as a Stormin’ Pointer, racking up 18 kills on 49 attempts while also contributing 10 digs on her defensive rotations. Kriegel led her team with 25 digs and served up a pair of aces.
Senior Jaylan Harris, who has seen action as a defensive specialist off the bench and who garnered a WaMaC West Conference Recognition award, said the biggest takeaway from the night and her four years with the school was the togetherness with which she and her teammates played.
“We knew we wanted to get to that next level, so we were all trying to play for each other,” Harris said. “Even when we were down or going through a rough patch, we were all just trying to calm each other down and get each other through it.”
Their match against the Comets got off to an inauspicious start. The CPU offense couldn’t quite get into a rhythm, trading points with Charles City. The Comets played like a team with nothing to lose. Coming into the regional tournament with a 17-25 record, it seemed like they were playing with house money. While neither offense was the mark of efficiency, Charles City’s Danielle Stock did wind up with a .524 kill ratio (12 kills on 21 attempts with one error). Trailing the first set 16-15, the Pointers eventually went on a 10-7 run to finish it off with an emphatic kill from Kono.
Charles City continued to make effort plays on defense, diving for ball hit out of bounds and making CPU work hard for every point it earned. After taking sets two and three without trailing, the Comets finally gave up the lead in the fourth thanks to an 8-3 run from the Pointers to go up 13-12. The once-dormant crowd inside the gym erupted with the timeout from Charles City to stop the bleeding.
However, the magic ran out for a CPU team that, according to Halac, defied expectations at every turn throughout the year. In Halac’s first year, on a senior-laden team, the Pointers earned the top seed in the WaMaC tournament with a three-set thriller over a ranked Beckman Catholic team while taking second in their home tournament. However, Halac said it was still tough to console her team.
“There was a lot of emotion,” Halac said. “Clearly, nobody wants their season to end, but I also wanted them to understand what they accomplished this season, especially what others perceived us to accomplish.
“I wanted them to dwell on some of those positives and understand that, although today hurts, going forward you have a lot to hold your heads up about.”