State-bound! Cissna Park volleyball wins emotional super-sectional

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MILFORD — The Cissna Park volleyball team was running out of points.

Trailing Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg 22-21 in the third and final set of Friday night's Class 1A Milford Super-Sectional, coach Josh Landon called a timeout.

The Timberwolves responded with two straight points to take a 23-22 lead, forcing Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg to call a timeout.

Moments later, it was tied at 24, meaning extra points would be needed to decide which team would advance to state tournament.

The Hatchets scored the next point, and Landon called his final timeout.

"We wanted to make sure we re-imagined our composure and everyone was on the same page," Landon said. "The second timeout was more of, 'We were just in this situation. You've got this. Believe in yourself, believe in the person next to you and let's leave it on the floor.'

"It was a tremendous amount of energy, grit, determination, whatever word you want to use to describe those last few points."

Cissna Park took the next point to stay alive, went back and forth for a couple more and eventually broke through with consecutive points to win the set, the match (25-16, 19-25, 28-26) and a ticket to CEFCU Arena in Normal next weekend.

"I think every emotion a person can have took place in those last three or four points," Landon said. "It was a back-and-forth match. That last set was the epitome of what high school volleyball should be like."

The win was Cissna Park's 17th in a row and improved its record to 37-3. Following each of their three losses this year, the Timberwolves have rattled off long win streaks. After a three-set loss to Bishop McNamara on Aug. 26, they won 11 in a row.

After getting swept by Fieldcrest on Sept. 16, they won seven straight. Their last loss was Sept. 27 against St. Joseph-Ogden. Since then, they've only dropped two sets and now stand as one of the final four 1A teams remaining in the state.

"These girls have just bought in to the team. It's been team first and me second. It does sound cliche, but that's what these girls are about," Landon said. "It's been amazing to see these girls buy in and continue to gain the trust of their teammates through each match we've had during this run."

This was the expectation all season. The Timberwolves "knew we had the pieces" to make it to state, according to Landon, and they took that mindset into every match.

Cissna Park trailed 9-4 early in the opening set of Friday night's match before turning on a switch and going on a 21-7 run to end the frame.

From then on, there were no more runs. Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg (34-6) stayed poised, kept a short lead for the majority of set two and forced a third set.

"This is what it's supposed to be like at this point in the season," Landon said. "It's one of those matches you wish would have taken place at (state)."

No momentum swings ensued during the third set. Each team traded points to a 10-10 tie, then 20-20 and all the way up to extra points before Cissna Park finally secured the victory.

Addison Lucht and Ava Morrical led the Timberwolves, with Lucht supplying 16 kills and eight digs, while Morrical produced a double-double with 32 assists and 10 digs. Sophie Duis (seven kills) and Brooklyn Stadeli (five kills, eight digs, two aces) were also key in the win.

Cissna Park now awaits Hartsburg-Emden (32-7) at 9 a.m. next Friday in a state semifinal match on the Illinois State University campus. It's the third trip to state for Cissna Park after the Timberwolves placed third in 2014 and second in 2015.

Now, this current group will bring back hardware to the tiny Iroquois County village. It's just a matter of how much history the Timberwolves want to make next weekend.

"It's a whirlwind," Landon said. "We get to go finish the season on the biggest stage, and that's super exciting."