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TOLONO — It had to feel like deja vu for St. Joseph-Ogden volleyball.

The Spartans on Monday engaged in an exhausting road match with Tri-Valley, overcoming a 30-28 first-set defeat to take the next two — 31-29, 26-24.

One night later, visiting SJ-O dropped a 28-26 opening game to rival Unity.

“That was probably my biggest concern,” Spartans coach Abby McDonald said. “... How are we going to respond (Tuesday). How will our legs be.”

Strong enough to pick up another significant victory.

SJ-O rode Kennedi Burnett’s 13 kills, Katelyn Berry’s 10 kills, Emily Bigger’s 30 assists and Rylee Stahl’s 10 digs to a 26-28, 25-20, 25-13 Illini Prairie Conference triumph.

“We’ve told our kids all along, ‘Slow and steady wins this race,’” McDonald said, “... and they’ve bought into that.”

The Spartans (20-4, 3-1 IPC) dealt the Rockets (22-2, 3-1) their first loss to a local program all season.

This despite 16 kills from Unity’s Emma Bleecher, as well as 23 digs from Ella Godsell and 22 assists from Jalyn Powell.

“Any time there’s a big rivalry match ... the energy’s going to be high and the nerves are going to be high,” Rockets boss Kylie McCulley said. “It kind of got the best of us.”

SJ-O, meanwhile, has won five consecutive tilts after losing 2-1 to St. Thomas More late last month.

“It’s been a long couple great nights of volleyball,” McDonald said.

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).