The Edwardsville Tigers will be seeking their third straight sectional championship when they play the Normal West Wildcats at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Class 4A Normal Community Sectional.
The Tigers (31-7) have been picking up steam over the last couple of weeks. They've won 11 of their last 12 matches.
"The girls are doing a really nice job here," Edwardsville coach Jami Parker said. "It seems like they kind of turned the corner right at the end of the season and started playing very consistent and very steady. That was one of the things we've been working on all season, being consistent. Kind of limit our unforced errors, and they've done a beautiful job of that here in the postseason, and it has made all the difference.
The Tigers beat Minooka to capture the sectional title the past two years, but Normal West knocked off Minooka 25-16, 25-16 Tuesday.
Normal West sophomore Jill Paska served up 12 straight points to help the Wildcats (22-12-1) roll out to a 17-4 lead in the first game against Minooka.
"Just some scout information that we've received," Parker said of what she knows about Normal West. "It's another good team. You don't get to this level of the playoffs without being a good team. They definitely have some strong hitters out on the pins that we will need to defend. Good ball control. Consistent. We'll just need to play our game tomorrow night. Play the way we have been playing."
The Tigers advanced to the sectional championship by beating Southwestern Conference-rival O'Fallon 25-21, 25-16 Tuesday.
The Tigers showed off their depth at the net as Maddie Werths had five kills and five blocks, Lynsey Wright had four kills and six blocks and Nicole Allaria had five kills.
Setter Aubry Dickmann is tasked with spreading the ball around to the Tigers' five hitters. Dickmann stepped into a starting role this season, replacing Lexi Gober.
"I think it was a question mark for everyone but else," Parker said of Dickmann. "Aubry has been with us for four years, and unfortunately it has been one of those situations where she could have starting for a number of a teams. It just so happened that she was a year behind Lexi, and I had another phenomenal setter right ahead of her. She had to wait her turn to take the reigns setting.
"While other people might have been concerned, our team wasn't. We know what we had with Aubry. She has done a great job for us this year."
In other sectional title matches:
* The Lebanon Greyhounds (19-9) will be shooting for their first-ever sectional title as they play the St. Elmo Eagles (28-7) at 7 p.m. Thursday in the championship match of the Class 1A Sectional.
"Coming in for my first year coaching, I couldn't have asked for anything more," Lebanon coach Carrie Brickey said. "The girls have worked hard all year, and it's at that point of the season where as a coach, whether it is more or any other coach, it's at their will. You've taught them and prepared them as well as you can, and you have to see how they perform. That pressure is there, and it's just how they handle it."
Brickey is a native of south St. Louis who played volleyball at Rosati-Kain High School and then McKendree College in Lebanon.
Middle hitter Madison Dauch is the Greyhounds' top hitter. Dauch, who also plays basketball, is one of six seniors for the Greyhounds.
"She is a heck of athlete," Brickey said. "She will be the first to admit that volleyball isn't her first sport, but she is the type of who wants to learn and she takes in what I am saying and translate it into court play."
The Greyhounds' net attack also features middle hitter Claire Buechele, freshman right-side hitter Mallory Schmitt and outside hitters Daisy Cornell and Ailiegh Wilken.
Jenna Wilhelm handles the setting chores, while Laura Nunn, Kiera Wagner and Kyleigh Johnson all provide defense in the back row.
Brickey said Cornell, Wilhelm, Buechele play all the way around the rotation.
Brickey said she doesn't know much about St. Elmo, but it's more about her squad playing up to their capabilities.
"Volleyball is the type of sport where any day any team can beat anybody, and vice versa, you can be beat by anybody," Brickey said. "It's all about mental preparedness and whether or not you're there with a winning attitude."
* Also in Class 1A, the Valmeyer Pirates (28-9) will play the Goreville Blackcats (25-7) at 7 p.m. Thursday in the championship match of the Marissa Sectional.
The Pirates will be seeking their first sectional title since 2008.
The winners of the Lebanon and Marissa Sectionals will meet at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Valmeyer Super-Sectional.
* The two-time defending Class 3A champion Mater Dei Knights (34-4) will play the Columbia Eagles (34-2-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday in the championship match of the Class 3A Murphysboro Sectional.
The two squads are meeting for the first time this season.
The Knights have won four straight sectional titles, while Eagles are aiming for their second straight sectional title.
* The Sparta Bulldogs (28-9) will play Edwards County at 7 p.m. Thursday in the championship of the Class 2A Nashville Sectional.
Led by junior Gabby Gallois and Jannice Edmonson, the Bulldogs upset Carterville 25-23, 25-23 Tuesday.
Gallois and Edmonson combined for 17 kills for the Bulldogs. Megan Cunningham and Bobbie Lake each added five blocks.
Gallois has 280 kills on the season, while Edmonson has 188 kills.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.