MILFORD — If there was any remaining doubt Milford sophomore outside hitter Caley Mowrey is among the best players in Class 1A heading into sectional play this week, her performance in the Bearcats’ rampage to the program’s first-ever sectional crown should put them soundly to rest.
Milford’s IHSA Class 1A Milford Sectional championship matchup against Illinois Lutheran lined Mowrey up against a duo of skilled hitters that play a very similar type of game to her own in Isabella and Sofia Biesterfeld.
There is giving an opponent a taste of its own medicine, and then there’s what the Bearcats did to the Chargers in a 25-14, 25-13 shellacking that secured Milford a trip to super-sectional play for the first time in the program’s history.
Mowrey and company took what had been Lutheran’s most dangerous weapon during its postseason run and turned it into a liability by utterly dominating at the net, visibly rattling the usually precise Chargers and sending them home empty handed in two quick sets.
“She’s been dominant at the net and teams know it, but you just can’t do anything about it,” Milford coach Christy Duis said of her sophomore stud. “That’s how good she is. She hasn’t even had an off game, and she can’t be stopped when she is on. It’s so awesome to have an offensive weapon like that on our side of the net.
“We knew that [Isabella Biesterfeld] was going to get some, and she is a fantastic player who does a lot of good things. For a lot of teams, when you go up against a big hitter like that, you get caught on your heels, which gets you all flustered and out of sorts,” she added. “But we give it back. We don’t let ourselves get rattled like that. We just give it right back and then some. That’s our whole goal, we stay on the offensive.”
In addition to Caley Mowrey’s star-making display, the Bearcats also excelled in every facet of their gameplan — particularly in the way they controlled the tempo with deft ball control near the middle of the court and with the precise serving from its seniors that has been their signature during the postseason campaign.
“It is amazing to be a part of this team. The seniors are like a rock; they’re everything to this team,” Caley Mowrey said. “Kaylee [Warren] sets the ball perfect for me, Jakki [Mowrey] and Sam [Conley] pass so well, and Maya is such an awesome middle hitter; they’re just everything to us.
“It feels so amazing to play a team that tough that has been so good and beat them at their own game,” she added. “If we play like we’ve been playing these past few games, things are looking really good for us.”
For its senior leaders, the championship win is the culmination of a lot of long and productive careers made up of quite a few talented teams that were a bit overshadowed in Class 1A by a run of powerhouse Watseka and Cissna Park squads.
This year has been Milford’s, and the ‘Cats have no intention of missing their chance to capitalize. Along with senior setter Kaylee Warren, outside hitter Jakki Mowrey has been a huge statistical contributor for the Bearcats since her freshman season.
It was fitting to have both of them on the floor as Milford clinched its sectional title.
“It is an amazing feeling. We’ve never experienced this before, ever, in school history, and to be a part of this was just amazing,” Jakki Mowrey said. “I was so nervous, but I knew my team would back me up no matter what, and to be a part of this atmosphere was incredible. It helps so much to know you have a whole community behind you.”
Caley Mowrey finished the night with a match-high 12 kills, and Jakki Mowrey served up five aces. Warren had 25 assists, Emmaleah Marshino had 12 digs, and McEwen had a pair of blocks.
The Bearcats have one more match before a trip to state. They will travel to Midland High School in Varna at 6 p.m. Friday to take on Illini Bluffs in the Class 1A Midland Super-Sectional.