It took three sets, but the Pekin volleyball team stayed in the race for the Mid-Illini Conference title Tuesday night.
The defending conference champion Dragons outlasted Morton 25-16, 22-25, 25-13 behind 18 kills by Hannah Thompson, 16 digs by Maddy Cash, 19 assists by Brooke Sherwood and three blocks by Lauren Juergens.
The win kept Pekin (22-5, 9-2) within striking distance of Mid-Illini co-leaders Limestone and Metamora with matches coming up against both teams next week in the final week of the conference season after the Dragons face Mid-Illini foe Washington on Thursday.
Limestone beat Metamora 23-25, 26-24, 25-19 Tuesday to pull even with the Redbirds for first place. The Rockets (23-3, 10-1) were led by seniors Brittany Robinson (23) and Sara Carr (13), who combined for 36 kills.
“Our senior leadership is showing,” said Limestone coach Shelly Stoner.
Metamora (27-5, 10-1) swept through the conference schedule the first time to take sole possession of first place. However, the Redbirds are now even with matches against Dunlap, Pekin and East Peoria remaining.
Limestone will play Dunlap, Pekin and Canton.
Coach has 202 wins: In a win over Morton last week, Limestone volleyball coach Shelly Stoner earned the 200th victory of her career. Following Tuesday night’s win over Metamora, she’s 202-70 in her eighth year as the Rockets’ coach.
Stoner has won three Mid-Illini Conference and regional championships at Limestone, and is competing for a fourth conference crown.
“To me, 200 is just a number. I’m surrounded by good assistants and I’ve been fortunate to have great players,” she said.
“I try my hardest each day to get the most out of my players. I feel that’s my strongest point. I didn’t get the 200 wins. It’s not me. It’s our program, the athletes and coaches who do the little things behind the scenes nobody sees.”
Picking up the slack: The Dunlap volleyball team could have folded when senior leader Savannah Sullivan was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
“We’ve had a lot of people become team leaders,” said Eagles coach Jennifer Bartlett. “Savannah kept everybody in matches mentally.”
Dunlap (15-5, 5-5) entered Tuesday’s match against Washington in fourth place in the Mid-Illini Conference.
Six-foot senior middle hitter Hannah Scherder has stepped up, Bartlett said.
“Hannah is our go-to person,” Bartlett said. “She’s a hitter who everybody has to stop. She jumps over a lot of people. She has long legs and long arms. She’s a true force at the net.”
Bartlett said senior setter Grace McConaghie is the best in the area.
“Grace is smart, and a true leader and competitor,” Bartlett said. “She’ll do anything for her team. I admire that. She’ll do whatever it takes.”
Chiefs win at East Moline: The Deer Creek-Mackinaw volleyball team picked up four wins Saturday at the East Moline tournament.
Dee-Mack defeated United junior varsity 21-10, 21-10 and took down Knoxville 21-9, 21-15 in pool play.
The Chiefs tied LaSalle-Peru 7-21, 21-15 in their last pool-play game.
Carson Smalley had nine kills to lead Dee-Mack to a 25-17, 25-12 win over West Prairie in the semifinals.
Morgan Burr added three aces and 15 assists, while teammate Lydia Wiegand had eight digs for the Chiefs.
In the championship match, Dee-Mack defeated LaSalle-Peru 25-18, 24-26, 15-10.
Smalley led with 16 kills and Shelby DeBolt added two aces.
Peoria Journal Star contributed to this report. Steve Stein can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.