Whips Stand Poised to Make Even More Hampshire History

Article excerpt

Byline: Jerry Fitzpatrick

Hampshire sophomore Amy Wehrs stepped to the service line at match point poised to make history.

"I was just thinking, "Get it in. If you miss it, it's a point for them,' " Wehrs said. "I just tried to block out the crowd and focus on the ball. I knew if I got it in, they would do the rest."

"They" are Wehrs' Hampshire volleyball teammates, who fulfilled their season-long quest to play in Friday's Class 2A Final Four at Redbird Arena in Normal when senior middle Jaclyn Clai spiked a shot off the Westmont block out of bounds for the historic winning point in the Whip-Purs' 25-19, 25-8 supersectional victory at the Purple Palace Monday night.

The team bus for Redbird leaves Hampshire at 7 a.m. Thursday morning for a 10:50 a.m. practice.

The Whips (36-3) will face Chicago Christian (34-3), a team with three six-footers along its front line, in the first semifinal Friday at 11:30 a.m.

"We've worked so hard and wanted this so bad," said senior outside hitter Jena Karkos, who pounded 10 kills in Hampshire's first supersectional victory in girls volleyball. "Finally, all that hard work is paying off now that we get to go downstate. No matter what happens, we're in the Final Four. It's finally all coming true."

In just her third season coach Karen Whitehouse has guided Hampshire to its first downstate appearance in the sport, a feat accomplished with a remarkably stable lineup.

For two seasons - 77 matches total - the Whips have started the exact same group of players: outside hitters Jena Karkos and Amy Wehrs, right side Kim Kartheiser, middles Amber Ladwig and Jaclyn Clai, libero Jen Kondrat and setter Kara Wehrs.

No illnesses.

No suspensions.

No lineup changes.

Amazingly, no injuries.

This group sent notice it was rounding into a top team last year when the Whips went 26-9-3 before losing to Harvard in a Class A sectional final on its home floor.

With the same lineup back intact, hopes were high this season, especially with the state volleyball tournaments now split into four classes.

"We were pretty confident and it's always been a goal of ours," Clai said of reaching state between congratulatory hugs. "Coming off a good season last year, we were pretty confident. We knew we could get pretty far."

Their stability has allowed deep bonds to form between the girls. …