O'FALLON - The level of consistency wasn't what coach Katelyn Hagarty wanted, but the O'Fallon boys volleyball team was sharp enough when it counted.
The Panthers shook off slow starts in both games to beat Belleville East 25-19, 25-23 Wednesday in the finals of the O'Fallon Regional. The match was played at O'Fallon High School's Milburn campus.
O'Fallon (24-2-1) will face Edwardsville, winner of the Granite City Regional, at 6:30 p.m. Friday in an O'Fallon Sectional semifinal, also at the Milburn campus.
"It's like we do enough to get by, but they're a good team and we're a good team and that was good volleyball," Hagarty said. "You have to earn your points and we did."
In game one, East took a 5-1 lead behind the serving of Josiah Bergt.
"We've been doing that in the past few games, but we're able to finish," Hagarty said. "We had an offense, but we weren't dominating and controlling until the end, when all of my hitters started crashing the net every single time."
O'Fallon went ahead 10-7 when East's Austin Cox hit the ball out of bounds, but the Panthers couldn't extend their lead beyond three points until late in the game. A kill by Dirk Husemann, after a wild exchange of hits at the net, made the score 23-18, and a block by Alex Belongy boosted O'Fallon's lead to 24-18.
"We started off pretty slow, but we've got a young team and a regional championship is new to them," said O'Fallon setter Luke Terhaar, who had 19 assists. "Toward the end of the first game, we kind of pulled it together and took some momentum into the second game."
East stayed alive on a kill by Taylor Quinley, but O'Fallon was awarded the game-winning point on a rotation error by the Lancers.
"It was on a libero switch and it's frustrating, but it happens sometimes," said East coach Stefanie Gaubatz, whose finished the season at 18-10-2. "It was 24-19 at the time and we had some other mistakes that cost us along the way."
O'Fallon also was sluggish early in game two, falling behind 5-2 when Belongy hit the ball out of bounds. Five times, the Panthers led by one, but East went ahead 15-11 on a kill by Keelan Vaughn.
The lead changed hands three times before O'Fallon went ahead for good, 24-23, on a tip by John Hobbs. With Hobbs serving, the Panthers closed out the game and the match on a hitting error by East.
"We did play well and that was only the second time we ran that lineup," Gaubatz said. "One of our setters, Patrick Smith, sprained his ankle, so Adam Warren had to step up and set for us.
"At times we didn't play as smart as we should, but we played hard and that's all I can ask."
Hobbs had a team-high 19 kills for O'Fallon.