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Mooseheart sophomore Abi Alade (right) blocks a hit by Newark's Kristina Nichols during the Ramblers loss to the Lady Norsemen in the IHSA Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional.
Mooseheart junior Madison Hart keeps the ball alive from the back row. The Ramblers lost 25-8, 25-12 to Newark.
Hinckley, IL, Oct. 29 – Make no mistake about the quality of Newark's volleyball team. Certainly no one on Mooseheart's team was going to argue with how strong the Lady Norsemen are this season.
Mooseheart fell in the semifinals of the IHSA Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional on Tuesday 25-8, 25-12 in a comprehensively effective performance by the Lady Norsemen.
"Any time you're going up against the No. team, it's going to be difficult," Mooseheart coach Kristin Shuman said. "Looking at their scores and looking at their team, we knew it was going to be difficult."
To make matters worse for Mooseheart, the Lady Norsemen didn't have any letdowns on Tuesday. From the start of a lightning fast opening game through the final point, Newark's offense moved smoothly and never allowed the Lady Ramblers much of an opening.
"They were hitting on all cylinders," Shuman said. "All their hitters were all taking big swings and they were all going in. We couldn't even hope that they would make a mistake and we'd benefit."
Mooseheart (4-13) advanced to Tuesday's semifinals thanks to a forfeit victory over Islamic Foundation, which withdrew from the tournament after the seedings were announced. Newark established its superiority early against Mooseheart, showing an offensive fluency Mooseheart never achieved.
"You get the teams that have played together for a number of years and a lot of them play club together," Shuman said. "They play through the school year and in the summer. Then it's automatic - pass, set, hit, pass, set, hit. We're still on the defensive side, trying to get it started."
Mooseheart mounted a brief revival in the second game and had the lead to 15-8 and later to 19-10, but in both instances, Newark pushed its lead before the Ramblers got closer.
"If we can get our offense going, we're decent," Shuman said. "In the second game, we started finally moving our feet. When we play like that, we can put up some points and be competitive. When we get stuck on our heels, we're not moving and every ball is going to hit the floor."
Two Mooseheart seniors who played considerably this season graduate from the program: Libero Rocio Sanchez and middle hitter Jade Sanni.
"Replacing your libero is always tough and (Sanni) has really grown in her time with us with her hits," Shuman said.
With those graduates, the Ramblers have a strong junior class returning - including Jasmine Martinez, Madison Hart and Leslie Ballard. Add to those sophomore Abi Alade and freshman Mamie Barkley and there is plenty of future in the Mooseheart program.
"I think we'll have a very strong team again next year," Shuman said. "With that junior class, there's a lot of talent. Next year, there's a lot of potential.”
But for Mooseheart to realize that potential, Shuman said things need to take place before the 2014 season begins next August.
"I'd like to see them have the desire," Shuman said. "And that's something I can't coach. That has to come from them."