EPG Regional volleyball final

    Penny Grusy figured it was going to be a tough road for her El Paso-Gridley Titans Thursday night. They were facing Tri-Valley for the championship of the Class 2A EPG Regional and the Vikings had arguably the best player in the Heart of Illinois Conference.
    Given the strength of the conference — nine regional finalists and six champions crowned Thursday — that means Hannah Clayton is one of the best in the state.
    But it was not Clayton doing the damage this time, it was Ryleigh Warfel making a statement as she led the Tri-Valley net attack to a 25-18, 25-14 victory at the Titan Center.
    “(Warfel) had a real good game, very few errors on her part,” Grusy said. “It’s hard to go single block against what they’re bringing at us. They tried, it just wasn’t happening tonight.”
    Warfel finished with 10 kills, but it seemed like a lot more given her propensity for attacking. The Vikings seemed to also gear their offense to the outside hitter.
    There were other Vikings who did damage as they had six players record kills. By the end, Clayton was practically directing traffic to let other have attacks.
    “They had too many weapons coming at us,” Grusy said. “That second game they kept attacking. Our girls played with heart that first game and stuck with them.”
    It seemed like it was a bit of a surprise to Grusy. The first time these teams met, it was Clayton who was rifling the EPG defense.
    “Hannah was just an eye-opening experience to our young girls when we got up there,” Grusy said.
    Despite the final outcome, the Titans weren’t playing punching bags. They produced some offense while playing solid defense. A lot of the Tri-Valley scoring came after hard-fought rallies.
    “Our seniors were really wanting it, they were doing their film scouting and all that just to get ready tonight,” Grusy said. “It just wasn’t meant to be.”
    El Paso-Gridley’s last lead of the night came at 5-4 in the first set when Madi Funk delivered her first successful attack. Halle Sheley got a kill for a sideout and tie, and Warfel delivered on the next play to put Tri-Valley ahead for good.
    EPG hung around, though. It took a piece-by-piece progressive offense by the Vikings to inch away.
    Warfel added a kill on the first play of the second set and Tri-Valley went to work quickly. Warfel reeled off eight straight points as the second TVHS serve and pushed the Vikings’ advantage to 13-2.
    When it was over Warfel had 10 kills and 11 service points for Tri-Valley (27-5). Lauren Gilmore had 27 assists. On defense, Clayton and Hannah Rudsinski each had 3 blocks while Regan Danko came up with 14 digs and Rudsinski had 13 digs.
    Funk had 8 kills for the Titans (15-13) while four others had 1 kill apiece. Cheyenne Carr made 13 assists and had 5 service points. Lauryn Mool had 12 digs and Morgan Ryder chalked up 11 digs.