By Mike Monahan

EFFINGHAM – Charleston took charge early but Olney (Richland County) rallied to take the second set and then outlasted the Trojans in a dramatic third set Monday in the opener for the IHSA Class 3A regional volleyball tournament.

Olney (15-16) next faces top-seeded Marion tonight.

The Trojans (8-26), which entered the regional tournament seeded No. 8, took the first set 25-17 against the No. 7 Tigers before losing 25-15.

The third set featured 15 ties, five lead changes and neither team led by more than three points. 

The score was tied at 23 when Olney sophomore Aliyah Tracy served the final two points – the last one when a CHS attempt at a kill sailed out. 

“The kids played hard,” said Charleston coach Steve Pamperin. “They have played hard all season. Hats off to Olney. They really scrapped and really fought for this game. Best of luck to them.”

Charleston’s Addison Shrader spikes the ball past Richland County’s Allison Harness.

Charleston had won four of its last five matches and defeated Olney Sept. 18 in the Charleston Invite, 25-22, 25-19.

Pamperin, who watched the film of the match, said both teams had improved since then. 

“We were doing a better job here at the end of putting a little more pressure on the opposing team, but tonight Olney just made a couple of more plays and came out on top,” said Pamperin, who is 113-80 (.585) in his seven seasons. 

In the third set, Charleston held the largest leads early, 3-0 and 4-1, before Olney tied it at five for the first deadlock of the set. Charleston led 13-12 after a kill by Madison Veatch. It was the first of three times that the Trojans led by one. Olney then took a 16-15 lead on a kill by Joan Biyok and Charleston last had the lead at 21-20. 

The Trojans had trailed in the opening set, 5-2, but the lead then changed hands several times. Olney held a 13-12 lead before the Trojans took the lead for good after Elllie Jacobs served three points, including an ace when the ball nicked the top of the net and landed in the deep middle. Charleston eventually took a 20-14 lead on three service points by Shrader. 

However, in the second set it was all Olney, a member of the Little Illini Conference, who improved to 15-16. The second set was tied just once at three when Olney earned the serve and Allison Harness served five unanswered points, getting help from both a kill by Danielle Brown and two hitting errors by Charleston for a 9-3 Tiger lead. 

Charleston did get to within four, 13-9 after a point by Veatch, but Olney took a seven point lead, 18-11 on a point by Macy Hetzel. The Trojans didn’t get closer than six the rest of the way. Charleston had just three service errors in the match compared to six for Olney. 

The Trojans had four seniors on a team that went 69-41 over their four years, including the program’s first regional title (2019) since 1997 – Genavieve Braden, Ellie Jacobs, Veatch and Wood. 

“I am super proud of each and every one of them,” said Pamperin. “They really, really worked hard all season and they really gave it their all tonight. I am really proud of the seniors.”

Next year the team returns setter Mackenzie Pamperin, middle blocker Shrader and Audrey Jacobs, who all started Monday.