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There was a time not so long ago that it seemed the Vandalia volleyball team would be hard-pressed to achieve its preseason goal of breaking the program's single-season wins record.
Now, it appears nothing can stop the Lady Vandals from obliterating it.
Vandalia won its 14th in a row Tuesday night - matching the program record of 22 victories in the process - by cooling off another hot team on its "Senior Night" with a 25-14, 25-18 over Fayette County rival St. Elmo.
The Lady Vandals are now just one win away from setting a new program standard with 23 victories.
Next Thursday's "Senior Night" showdown with Pana might seem to be an ideal date to attain the feat. But the Lady Vandals would rather take care of business this Thursday at Staunton, killing two birds with one stone.
"We'd like to do it at Staunton, because it would not only be the (single-season wins) record for the school, but also the conference championship - all on the same night," said Vandalia coach Allison Smith, whose team is atop the South Central Conference East Division standings with a 7-1 record with two league matches to go.
The Lady Vandals ended St. Elmo's six-game winning streak by blowing open a pair of games that were close early on.
St. Elmo actually enjoyed an 11-10 lead in the opening set before VCHS reeled off seven straight points and closed out on a 15-3 run.
The return of Shelby Cearlock midway through the first game seemed to spark the Lady Vandals, as the senior immediately hammered down a kill. Cearlock suffered a broken tooth diving for a ball in Thursday's win at Litchfield and was questionable for Tuesday's game. But, with the exception of the mouthpiece she was wearing Tuesday, you would have never guessed she was injured by the way she played.
"We were glad to have Shelby back tonight after she went down with an injury," said Smith after the senior contributed three kills and two aces to the win. "I thought she did a nice job. I tried to limit her a little bit her first night back, and I thought Dakota (Kellow) did a nice job filling in."
The second game played out much the same way as the first, as Vandalia created some separation with an 8-2 run after the score was tied at 10 early on.
Stephanie Henna spearheaded an outstanding effort by the Lady Vandals at the service line and at the net, finishing with three aces on 9 for 9 serving and seven blocks.
"She's done a great job serving for us - especially coming out of timeouts," Smith said. "She also did a great job at the net and had some really nice blocks. She's just really developing into a consistent player we can rely on every night."
Walton added two blocks, as the Lady Vandals seemed to frustrate St. Elmo's hitters with their defensive effort.
"All credit to their two blockers," St. Elmo coach Elise Asher said. "Those two girls did a fabulous job in the middle of taking some of our offense away from us. And they had some big hits on the outside, too."
Another key to the Lady Vandals' latest victory was outstanding serving, as they had just three service errors all night. Ten of those serves went for aces.
"I thought their serving was good and our serve receive wasn't very good," Asher said. "So we didn't transition into our offense as well as we would have liked."
"We got outplayed tonight," Asher added. "They have some very talented athletes. It was kind of an eye-opener for us and will give us an idea of the things we need to work on coming up on the National Trail (Tournament)."
The JV Lady Vandals also continued to roll, improving to 12-1 with a 25-17, 25-21 win.
Holly Goldsmith continued her fine play with six kills and two blocks. Amy Walton added six digs.
VCHS earns top regional seed
The Lady Vandals will have to drive 68 miles to their regional site, but thanks to their outstanding recent play, they will be the No. 1 seed once they get to Olney-East Richland High School.
Second-seeded Newton - which has won 12 regional titles since 1989 - appears to be VCHS's biggest obstacle in its attempt to win its first regional title since 1986.
Other teams in the regional are the host Tigers (8-8), Robinson (4-13) and Lawrenceville. Regional pairings are listed on this page.
The Olney Regional will feed into the Vienna Sectional, which will also feature the winners of the Benton, Fairfield and Harrisburg regionals.
A majority of the other teams in The Leader-Union coverage area will be at the St. Elmo Class 1A Regional.
South Central has earned the No. 1 seed, while the host Lady Eagles are the No. 2 seed.
Patoka is the No. 4 seed, while Brownstown and Mulberry Grove are seeded fifth and sixth, respectively, in the seven-team field.
Ramsey is the No. 7 seed in the Altamont Regional.
Both regionals will feed into the Dieterich Sectional.
Thursday's Vandalia Match
Vandalia def. Litchfield
The Lady Vandals (7-1 SCC-East) moved a step closer to their first-ever outright SCC-East title by rolling past the Purple Panthers.
Walton hammered down 10 kills in the victory, while Mary Davis had 42 assists, including 14 kill assists.
Henna led the way at the service line again, going 10-for-10.
Thursday's St. Elmo Match
St. Elmo def. M. Grove
The Lady Eagles wrapped up their seventh Egyptian-Illini Conference regular-season title in 10 years with their sixth win in a row.
Amy Fulk and Brooke Maxey led the way, hammering down eight and seven kills, respectively, as St. Elmo finished 7-0 in EIC play.
Lindsey Mills added 14 assists, while Megan Durbin chipped in four kills and two blocks.