MOUNT PULASKI - Elizabeth Fanning had 26
digs in Monday's Class A Supersectional
against Jacksonville Routt.
Counting them was a snap compared to
the hugs she received afterward.
"Everybody has come up to me," the
Mount Pulaski senior libero said, wading
through one last swarm of well-wishers.
"Everbody's so excited.
"It's just phenomenal."
Students and fans engulfed Fanning
and her teammates once they had clinched
a happy ending: MP's 24-26, 25-19, 25-10
win against Routt sent the team to its
first state tournament since 2004.
The Lady Hilltoppers (26-14) will
play Deer Creek-Mackinaw (33-4) in the
semifinals at 9:30 a.m. Friday at
Redbird Arena in Normal.
It's all thanks to a mid-match rally.
MP went away from its hitters through
Game 1 and much of Game 2, running
unsuccessful quick sets instead.
"Our passes weren't all there," said
senior middle hitter Christina Stoll,
who finished with six kills and a block.
"We were just a little skittish."
A timeout helped the team break out
of its funk. Behind 7-2 in the second
game, the Lady 'Toppers sensed the
urgency of a fading season and
"We knew we had to fight the rest of
the way," Fanning said. "We came
together as a team. We were talking. We
had the intensity. We were just there."
MP quickly tied the game at nine on
one of Kassi Schmidt's team-high 10
Moments later, the junior let loose
with another for a 20-15 lead.
"Our setters just settled down, and
that only helped the hitters," Mount
Pulaski coach Donna Dulle said. "They
were able to get much better swings."
Jeri Kaye Turner had 22 assists,
while Ellen Olson added 12.
Trying to stop the surge, Routt
(28-10) called a timeout of its own.
There was nothing doing.
"If you give them opportunities and
momentum, they're going to take it and
run," Lady Rockets coach Patrick Gibson
"We didn't step up. I'm not taking
anything away from Mount Pulaski, but
they didn't get our best effort
Game 3, then, was all but a
formality. Despite falling behind 2-0 at
the start, the Lady 'Toppers quickly
built a 10-5 lead and didn't look back.
Cue the court-storming fans.
And the elation.
"I don't even believe it right now,"
said Dulle, who planted a hug on most
everyone who came near. "It'll take
Mount Pulaski will head to Redbird
Arena in search of its first state
championship since 1989. This year's
tournament trip marks the ninth in
Classes will be canceled Friday,
giving the school with a 193-student
enrollment a better chance for a bigger
"Our crowd helps us out," Stoll said.
"We listen to them. Hear them yelling