PAXTON -- The 2019 season had already been the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley volleyball team's most successful year since 1997 prior to Monday's IHSA Class 2A Paxton Regional quarterfinal match.
With a 16-25, 25-22, 25-18 victory over Watseka in the match, the Falcons improved their record to 19-13, their highest win total since they went 21-7 and won a regional in 1997. Sixth-seeded GCMS can reach the 20-win mark if it wins its regional semifinal match against No. 2-seed Unity at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
“We’re really excited to get win No. 19," GCMS head coach Taylor Rubarts said. "We’re hoping for that 20-win season. We’re going to have to play our best volleyball against Unity tomorrow to get that.”
The Falcons trailed Watseka 7-2 in the first set before Jessica Freehill recorded a kill and Emily Clinton recorded a block to make the score 7-3 and 8-4, respectively. They trailed 24-12 before scoring four straight points, including kills by Payton Allen and Rylee Tompkins, to delay the game point.
“We came out a little flat in the first set, but then battled back in the second and third to take it, and that’s all I ask for — to come back and battle as hard as they could,” Rubarts said.
The Falcons took a 3-1 lead in the second set as a kill by Freehill -- who finished the match with 12 kills, three blocks and 11 digs -- led to the go-ahead point that broke a 1-1 tie.
Watseka took a 4-3 lead before the Falcons reclaimed the advantage at 6-4. The Warriors tied the game at 6-6 before GCMS sided out and then extended its lead to 9-6 via a kill by Emily Clinton -- who finished the match with eight kills, one block and 14 digs -- and a block by Allen -- who had four kills, one block and 12 digs at the match's end.
Allen and Clinton each tallied a kill during a run in which the Falcons extended their lead to 12-7. After Watseka reclaimed the lead at 13-12 and 14-13, kills by Freehill gave GCMS leads of 15-14 and 17-16.
The Warriors tied the game at 17-17 before two kills by Lindsey Heinz -- who finished the game with six kills, one block and three digs -- gave GCMS the advantage at 19-17. Heinz recorded another kill to make the score 23-21 and Molly Kroon -- who finished with one ace, one kill and one dig -- tallied an ace to extend the Falcons' lead to 24-21.
After Watseka sided out, a kill by Clinton resulted in the game point for GCMS.
“It was back-and-forth. We had some other girls come in the first set to try to do a little bit more offensively," Rubarts said. "In the second set, Rylee and Lindsey really stepped it up. We continue to tell the girls that everyone has to be involved for us to be successful.”
Kills by Freehill and Tompkins -- who finished the match with five kills and two digs -- and a block by Freehill helped GCMS gain a 5-0 lead in the third set before another kil by Freehill made the score 8-4. Kills by Clinton and Mady Schutte made the score 11-7 and 13-8, respectively.
"(Clinton) did a nice job of scoring for us as well," Rubarts said.
Schutte finished the match with 31 assists, 12 digs and two kills.
“Mady Schutte did a really nice job of mixing it up in (sets) two and three, and that helped keep their blockers on their toes so they couldn’t just key in on Jessica (Freehill) the whole time," Rubarts said. “It was just a solid night overall with distributing the ball.”
A kill by Schutte and two aces by Allen extended GCMS's lead from 15-11 to 18-11 before a kill by Heinz made the score 21-12.
Tompkins scored the match point via a kill.
GCMS def. Watseka 16-25, 25-22, 25-18
For GCMS (19-13), kills: Jessica Freehill 12, Emily Clinton 8, Lindsey Heinz 6, Rylee Tompkins 5, Payton Allen 4, Mady Schutte 2, Molly Kroon; aces: Allen 2, Kroon, Madison McCreary; blocks: Freehill 3, Clinton, Heinz; digs: McCreary 15, Clinton 14, Schutte 12, Allen 12, Freehill 11, Heinz 3, Tompkins 2, Alex Kafer 2, Kira Fuoss, Kroon; assists: Schutte 31, Allen, McCreary, Fuoss, Clinton.
IHSA Class 2A
Paxton (P.-Buckley-Loda) Regional
MONDAY, Oct. 28
Match 1 at 5:30 p.m.: (6) Gibson City (G.C.-Melvin-Sibley) def. (9) Watseka 16-25, 25-22, 25-18
Match 2 at 6:30 p.m.: (5) Bismarck (B.-Henning-Rossville-Alvin) def (12) Hoopeston (H. Area) 25-20, 25-23
TUESDAY, Oct. 29
Match 3 at 5:30 p.m.: (2) Tolono (Unity) vs. GCMS
Match 4 at 6:30 p.m.: (3) Paxton (P.-Buckley-Loda) vs. BHRA
THURSDAY, Oct. 31
Match 5 at 6 p.m.: Winner Match 3 vs. Winner Match 4