Schuckman: Raiders developing edge in middle that could be key component of postseason run


Sophomore middle blocker Eva Breckenkamp is developing into a larger force in the middle of the Quincy Notre Dame volleyball team's attack. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — It sounds different. It just does. When Eva Breckenkamp drives the volleyball straight down, it thuds. Loudly.

People notice. People flinch. People ooh and ahh. 

It happens when Emma Hoing powers a kill down the line or when Delaney Beard drives one crosscourt.

The Quincy Notre Dame volleyball team is blessed with an arsenal of offensive weapons that elevates it to the top team in West-Central Illinois. A 19-1 record suggests the Raiders are the team to beat, too, and the development in the middle has been a critical reason why.

Coming off last season’s 34 victories and Class 2A super-sectional berth, the Raiders returned a couple of known commodities in Hoing, a senior outside hitter with 488 career kills, and Annie Eaton, a junior setter with 1,413 career assists.

But Abbey Schreacke, the team’s leading hitter from her middle blocker role, graduated and is now gearing up for her freshman season on the University of Missouri women’s basketball team.

That leaves Breckenkamp, a 5-foot-11 sophomore, and Lauren Hummel, a 5-foot-10 junior, to fill that void. As Tuesday night’s 25-16, 25-14 victory over Hannibal at The Pit showed, they continue to grow into that role.

Breckenkamp finished with a team-leading eight kills and had 70 kills — second on the team — through the Raiders’ first 18 matches. Hummel had four kills against the Pirates and 46 through 18 matches. They are leading the team in attack percentage as well with Hummel at .376 and Breckenkamp at .315.

Certainly size and spring play a pivotal role in that.

Both players possess a wide wingspan and are quick off the floor, which led to success against the Pirates. The Raiders will need to accentuate their growing strength in the middle in order to navigate what looks like will be a challenging postseason path.

QND will be part of a sub-sectional that features Macomb and Illini West. Those two teams waged a three-set battle Tuesday with the Bombers prevailing 25-23, 21-25, 25-14. It was Macomb’s first match in 10 days and the second match of a busy week for the Chargers, which includes playing host to QND on Thursday night in Carthage.

It could be a pivotal match in determining regional seeds.

Macomb and Canton are slated to be the regional hosts, which means QND is likely headed to Canton since the top two seeds won’t be in the same regional. The Bombers’ victory Tuesday night gives it the edge over Illini West, although there is still plenty to be determined.

Not only do the Raiders visit the Chargers on Thursday, but they go to Macomb on Oct. 4 during a stretch where they also play on the road against two solid Class 1A teams in Camp Point Central and Southeastern.

It sets up a closing kick to the regular season that features a home match against Quincy High School and the always loaded QND Tournament. Then the postseason arrives and the Raiders pursue the state tournament berth they’ve been chasing.

For that to happen, one thing needs to remain true.

When they meet in the middle, the Raiders have an edge,

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