{{featured_button_text}}

FISHER -- Mackenzi Tabbert was ready to play in these games three years ago, when she was in junior high watching her older sister, Brittani, lead Stewardson-Strasburg to the 1A state championship game.

So when she got to Fisher on Thursday with a chance to win a sectional title for Windsor/Stewardson-Strasburg, a trophy which the program hadn't won since her sister's team in 2013 (before the co-op), she was more than ready.

In fact, Mackenzi went flying into the net after the first pass setter Becca Schlechte sent her way, the first set of the match.

"Kenzi, stay out of the net," W/SS coach Ronda Schlechte shouted.

"But it was an awesome hit!" the sophomore responded.

Mackenzi had that right. The coach couldn't deny it. 

And it was as good a sign as any, her jumping with such power that she scraped the net, of what the Hatchets were about to unleash on Farmer City Blue Ridge in a 25-15, 25-10 victory for the Fisher Sectional championship.

"She had a little heat tonight," coach Schlechte said, with a huge smile.

Tabbert had a team-high 11 kills and clinched the championship point on her only serving ace of the night.

When a pass was set her way, not even a 6-foot-3 blocker was going to slow down Tabbert. Blue Ridge's tallest player, Alex Specht, was better suited like the rest of her team to get out of the way.

Tabbert was hitting screamers all night.

"I was just super excited for this game and I just came out and I was just nailing them," Tabbert said. "And I just kept doing it. It was awesome."

Tabbert is one of two Hatchets who've been the team's most powerful hitters this season. While it was sophomore Megan Schlechte with seven kills in Tuesday's sectional semifinal (Tabbert had 6), it was Tabbert on Thursday.

"Sometimes we have to get on her about bringing that heat, but she did it tonight and that's good," coach Schlechte said. "With her height and for her to hit like she is and get around the blocks like she does, sometimes it's just almost unbelievable. We need that. We need that from all our players, and she brought it tonight."

Of course, the Hatchets continue to prove they're far more than a two-hitter offense. Kasey Bean was on target for seven kills, second on the team, with a knack for hitting the outside lines.

Six players had at least three kills, including Becca Schlechte who had 27 assists in her primary role. Becca, the only senior on the team, was a big hitter her freshman year for Stew-Stras -- that year Tabbert's sister and the Comets placed second in the state.

"It's formidable," Blue Ridge coach Evan Miles said of the W/SS attack. "And it's not one- or two-dimensional. I mean, they showed they have five good hitters against (Danville) Schlarman on Tuesday.

"They're all underclassmen except for their setter, and I guess they have another (Schlechte) sister that's coming up to be a freshman next year, so they're gonna be a ton for a couple years at least.

"We wish them luck. I mean, you hope the team that outs you in the playoffs makes a run at state and makes you look better."

On Tuesday, while Blue Ridge saw a Hatchets team that can throw everything at its opponents with great success, the Hatchets themselves saw Blue Ridge -- strongest in the middle with Maddy Hopkins.

The Knights played Thursday without senior setter Jessica Gilbert, who suffered a knee injury Tuesday and was on crutches with a brace on Thursday.

"They looked good, but they looked beatable," Becca Schlechte said. "They had really strong middles, but they also had short front row players that we really took advantage of."

Tabbert said, "We watched them a lot and just saw what their weaknesses were and put it out on the floor and did it. (We) went wherever they weren't."

Again, the Hatchets were practically impenetrable. 

Even on defense. Sophomore libero Carson Cole led the team with 13 digs. Becca Schlechte added 12 more.

It's that time of year now when the Hatchets' tough schedule, including tournaments at Effingham, Shelbyville and Mount Pulaski, is paying off.

"We played a lot of big teams this season, strong teams, and were able to get around them," coach Schlechte said. "It helps when we have five strong hitters out there because they can't just focus on one hitter. They have to be prepared for it to come from any direction."

It's a bonus to have big-game players like Tabbert, who lives for this.

"It feels great, especially since my sister won sectionals when she was a senior," Tabbert said. "She's watching me and she's proud of me and I'm glad to make her proud.

"She would always just kill it, and I'm like, 'Man, I wanna be her, or even be better than her.' And going to state was a great experience just being in the fan section. We've always made that our goal every season."

Now, the Hatchets (33-5) are one win away.

They'll play Springfield Lutheran in the super-sectional at 1 p.m. Saturday in Mount Pulaski. Lutheran beat Mount Olive in three sets Thursday.

"Yeah, one more. We keep saying that," Tabbert said. "I haven't even got myself ready to lose yet. Like, I'm not ready. I'm ready to keep going."

Want to kick off your morning with the latest in sports?

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.
0
0
0
0
0

Load comments